Brightly colored autumn forbs on the forest floor

Most of the leaves have come down from the aspen in the mountains above Santa Fe, and the highest peaks are already shining with the first snows of the season. The glorious light of late fall streams over the forests now, warm and raked, dappling the trails with shadows and spotlighting the minor characters of the forest floor for a fleeting moment of fame. Often overlooked by view-seekers on summer hikes, or health-enthusiasts on their mountain bikes, the little things of the forest come into their own this time of year.

I had a meditative walk on the Chamisa Trail not far from town last Sunday and I gave these small players my attention for the afternoon.

Shadows along the Chamisa Trail

Light sifting through the canopy picked out late season flowers here and there:

Harebells defying the frost

A patch of columbine taking in the afternoon rays

A choir of asters looking up from the leaf litter

The dour oaks throw off their usual reticence this time of year, and give a grudging blush of color:

Gambel oak at trail’s edge

Aspen leaves shine on the ground like golden coins:

Leaves on stone

Even the cool conifers take on a warmer hue:

A spray of Ponderosa needles

So go have a walk this afternoon and keep your eye out for those little things. It’s their time to shine!

Autumn light