The sign on the way into town says

Welcome to Creede!

586 Nice Folks

And 17 Soreheads

It may be that one of those soreheads was cooking at the tavern where we had lunch one day, because we were served cold french fries, soggy with grease, that were simply inedible. Or perhaps the cook was one of the reasons for the slogan we saw on some tee-shirts:


The little drinking town

With a mountain problem.

Whatever the case, we were glad that our cabin had a kitchen and that we didn't have to rely on the restaurants in Creede—not that we really wanted to go into town that much, anyway. Our cabin was on the Rio Grande, right next to the river so that we could hear it splashing and gurgling out there even with the windows closed.

It would be nice to be able to say that we were there in the last week of September because we knew that's when the aspen would turn, but it would be honest to say that we got lucky. And, boy, did we get lucky.

Like most of the little Colorado mountain towns whose mining days are long past, Creede has a "Fall Aspen Festival" to fill the financial void between the summertime camping and fishing crowd and the fall let's-get-drunk-and-see-if-we-can-accidentally-shoot-an-elk crowd. Creede's festival this fall was the week before we were there, and all those folks have our sympathies. They missed the real deal. When we arrived, things were still pretty green, but by the time we left, the yellow and orange, with the occasional splash of red, was overwhelming.

Compared to most of the other towns with such fall festivals, Creede has an advantage—and, given its french fries, it certainly needs lots of advantages. The upper Rio Valley is a flat alluvial plain a mile or so wide (containing a fair-sized river, by local standards) with mountains up to and above tree line on both sides. The far side of the valley is close enough that you can see individual trees, yet it's far enough that the vistas are open. What this means is that the panoramas of the aspen on the hillsides go on and on for, literally, miles. Patches thousands of acres in size sweep across the hillsides, and there are stripes and splotches everywhere.

My, my.