The clear blue Colorado sky overhead, brilliant sun and moderate temperatures are heavenly.
Gracing the edges of the trail, droves of petite yet powerful wildflower blooms provide bursts of color sharpened by the clear air, bright gamma rays and cool night temps.
The season is short but transcendent.
It's the tiny growth contrasted against expansive views that makes one truly appreciate this awe-inspiring part of the world--and this country--for preserving these minute and vast national treasures.
Many of the blossoms appear as garden perennials in other zones, but those which occur au naturelle in the alpine tundra are exceptional.
Take, for example, the mountain aster. In the cultivated garden, Asters take a back seat to the showy mums. But those "hardy" mums don't climb the mountain peaks.
In the wild the aster's delicate notched petals stand out softly along paths and bubbling streams. They're everywhere underfoot, in shades of pale violet to yellow.
Fringed gentian (gentianopsis thermalis) and purple monkshood (aconitum columbianum) add deep blue violet hues to the landscape, reflecting the brilliant sky and standing out on the dusty trail.
For a warmer tone, get nose to petal with the gentle yellow Western Paintbrush (Castilleja Occidentalis)
It takes a long spell for these miniatures to propagate and bloom. Extended winters, freezing temperatures and high winds make for a limited growing season.
One bootprint can crush tiny petals, so stay the course.
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