What I like best about Colorado is that most other people go there in the winter to ski, leaving it wide open -- and a lot cheaper -- in the early fall, my favorite time of year.
When a childhood friend planned a September wedding in Colorado Springs, I saw Pike's Peak for the first time. Too late in the season for blue columbine, too early for fall color, it was sprinkled with goldenrod and dandelions and crowned with a thin layer of what must have been the previous winter's snow. I spent most of my visit gazing at it, uncrowded and lovely.
I returned to Colorado for a Labor Day weekend in Steamboat Springs. Although many restaurants were closed for the season, we cooked meals in the condo we rented for less than what we would have paid for a budget motel in ski season.
We had few neighbors, except a family that had arrived in a station wagon bristling with outdoor gear and a canoe strapped to the roof.
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Clearly they were already wise to what I was just learning about Colorado in the fall.
Several years later, on a road trip through the west, I visited friends in Boulder.
One fall day we drove through Rocky Mountain National Park, where the leaves had turned brilliant golds and yellows. Another day we drove west on Interstate 70 and stood shivering in borrowed parkas on the Continental Divide. We drove back to Boulder amid a few snow flurries, and I knew it was time to go. My private tourist season was about to give way to ski season.
This is one in a series of postcards by Marjie Lambert, assistant Travel editor, who has been to all 50 states. Read her other postcards at www.MiamiHerald.com/travel.