Fall Color in the Desert

It is generally assumed that the desert of the southwest has two colors: green and brown. The green would be the desert during the rainy season and brown would be the rest of the year. However, there are “islands” that rise above the desert floor that reach up into other climate zones by the nature of their altitude. One such island is the Chisos Mountains, located centrally within Big Bend National Park. This past weekend I went on a quest to photograph the magnificent fall foliage of the bigtooth maple trees, found mostly in upper Boot Canyon above Boot Spring at an elevation of just under 7000′. My timing was perfect, the maple leaves having just turned to their magnificent technicolor shades of red, orange and yellow.

The spires rising above the Pinnacles Trail, access to the high canyons of the Chisos Mountains.
Brilliant red berries of the Texas Madrone tree, along the Pinnacles Trail.
A small grove of bigtooth maples along the Pinnacles Trail at an elevation of about 6700′.
Just after crossing Boot Creek, entering upper Boot Canyon with its stand of bigtooth maples.
The trail follows the creek upwards through the maples.
One of the taller examples along the trail.
The trail is carpeted with a mosaic of reds, oranges and yellows, having been just recently blown down by an overnight wind.

So, if you thought you had to go to Maine, or the Smokey Mountains for fall color, look closer to home. You just might find what you seek out in the desert.