Aspen leaves turned early this year, in large part because of Colorado’s drought. That’s brought a lot of people (myself included) to leaf-gaping spots across the state, like Maroon Bells, earlier than usual. A few things you won’t get from looking at Instagram photos before heading to Maroon Bells: Yes, the leaves are beautiful and peaking (early) but 1. Crater Lake, the destination of a main hike in the area, is entirely dry and 2. the town of Aspen has been under a stage 2 mandatory water restriction (which has never happened) since August. According to figures from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 80 percent of the state is abnormally dry, compared to last year’s 35. Low amounts of precipitation, especially in early 2018, led to a bad wildfire season this summer (many are still burning), the lowest levels of the Colorado River in more than 30 years and now in fall it has meant that aspen stands didn't take in as much water to produce healthy leaves. I hope some other people learn about the state’s environmental condition while searching for that perfect photo opp.