Christmas is Come Early This Year

Another peak experience by Martha Perantoni

I’d heard the fall color in Grand County had exploded last weekend, so I grabbed a friend and her son and his fiancé and we headed up to Tabernash and on to Junco Lake Trailhead, intent on reaching Columbine Lake.

True, the aspen trees were luminous yellow and some were even tipped with an unusual bittersweet orange. True, there were significant colorful groves that warranted making the journey from the Front Range.

True, also, the pine beetle has ravaged the remainder of the forests, each tree a sad addition to the brown citadel. At least that which remains – clear-cutting has left the rolling hills looking like a bald man’s hair on a bad day.

We grew silent as we turned onto Meadow Creek Road and found ourselves in an alleyway of devastation. We couldn’t hit the trail soon enough and began to wind our way closer and closer to timberline.

Something looked strange along the trail, though. In spite of the towering dead trees, there were countless young pine, some only a foot or two high, some over six feet, that were green, healthy, and pushing their way up through the quietus. Closer in by the waterfall and before heading up the moraine, the branch tips on the trees revealed the bluish-green of new growth. Every tree had it, looking as if to explode with enthusiasm.

Instead, I felt to explode with arbor ardor. Here I’ve been bemoaning the death of Colorado’s forests when all this time, underneath the canopy, they’ve been silently restoring and repairing themselves. I had no idea.

I paused in front of one particularly beautiful young pine. My friend saw my face and stopped. “Christmas Tree?” she asked. I smiled and shook my head “yes. Not to cut, but to celebrate.”

It’s comforting to know that the forests will abide – they’ll repair, regrow, have their literal rebirth. I’m hopeful that this turnabout will be permanent, that the new trees will be a strain resistant to the pine beetle, and that our forests will rejuvenate to the lush, wind-in-the-pines life they had less than a decade ago.

So, before the snow flies, revel in our new growth. Go celebrate Christmas.

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