San Juan National Forest.

Ahhh Silverton. A tiny mountain town that bustles in the summer months and calms down the rest of the year. Nestled in the heart of some very large mountains, this area is one of my favorite places in the world. But this post isn’t about Silverton. It’s about San Juan National Forest. Silverton is just there. In the center of it. And where we camped and explored was just 20 minutes into that wilderness. You would never expect to experience true, deep, powerful wild so close to a town. But hey- I live in the fuckin’ middle of nowhere mountains surrounded by wilderness. So there’s that. It’s a thing. Before turning off the main road onto our forest road, we were warned of bears. They haven’t gone into hibernation yet, and are still quite active. 

Great. 

Who doesn’t just love living in bear town? I know I do. I know Bivy does. But I also know Jon would much prefer a bear-less winter wonderland. I get that.  

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One of the most spectacular things about this area is the color. These mountains come in a variety of hues, from reds to purples to oranges and yellows. And then you’ve got the standard brown, black and stone(?) hues. Plus some snow thrown in for good measure. Yes, it is a colorful world in the high country of southern Colorado. Even for me- a colorblind color lover.

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The forecast here was cold. Not super duper cold, but like, pretty frosty. I sported a couple layers the whole time and at night, it got a little ridiculous :) You see, we didn’t plan to camp here and did not bring the best sleeping bag options for such weather. We each brought our Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilts. And I brought my Marmot 0 degree bag. Which was a life saver, because I sleep cold. So I rocked the Marmot and Jon rocked a quilt with a liner. He got really cold. I stayed toasty AF, but I also had on: an Ibex Woolies, a Patagonia Synchilla and an OR down sweater. Along with 220 weight wool leggings and wool socks. Can you imagine my outfit? What a turn on!

Maybe this is weird, but being super cold made us stoked for winter camping. And winter hiking. And other cold weather adventures. There is something amazing about being kind of cold. Mildly uncomfortable. It’s invigorating and makes one feel so very alive! 

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Bivy agrees. 

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We had some birds at camp who were extremely interested in Biv’s food. We found this out when we went for a walk and came back not an hour later to an empty dog bowl. Birds are almost always assholes, so this was no surprise. It was also no surprise when the birds wouldn’t stop squeaking and teasing Bivy from the trees above.  

I loved it. I love it when animals are goofy and silly. So clearly playing bird games and not caring whatsoever about the mental agony they were putting our puppy through. He really, really wanted to eat them. 

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The mornings here were stunning. Alpenglow and thick frost and breath that hung on the air a little unseasonably early. 

“If you stand still outside you can hear it... Winter’s footsteps, the sound of falling leaves.” -Takayuki Ikkaku

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Surrounding us on all sides were frozen waterfalls that we hadn’t really noticed until morning. Until the light hit them just right, they didn’t stand out and appeared to be cracks in the mountains. Those long fissures that run all the way down sharp slopes. It was very beautiful.

We attempted to go up a Jeep road on the following morning, which turned out to be a bit of a bust; the road was a little too advanced for the Jeep we brought. Or maybe too advanced for us. It was hard to tell, but we made it about half way up and turned around. Jeeping was a time saving measure to see something amazing. So it was a tiny bummer to turn around, but as always, safety first. The road had been rated as ‘easy’ and it was not. Such is life!

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The ice and chill factor here were refreshing after our stay in New Mexico. And a good peek into what our winter will hold. Because this area is similar to where we live, although we get more snow...  

There were very few people in the area and the quiet and stillness was never interrupted. Not by humans and not by wildlife.  

It seems that winter is fast approaching. That cold tranquil vibe is hanging in the air. The hibernating animals are starting to get sleepy. And most of the painted leaves have fallen to the forest floor. The sky is becoming a thick sheet of white or black, turning blue only during a small window of time during the late morning and afternoon hours. It all feels new. 

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The frost delighted me. It was thick and the crystals were bold. Each leaf covered in it was a work of art. 

What’s your favorite part of the cold autumn? The transitioning of seasons?

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“I am struck by the simplicity of light in the atmosphere in the autumn, as if the earth absorbed none, and out of this profusion of dazzling light came the autumnal tints.” -Henry David Thoreau