The road over Kebler Pass is surrounded on either side by one of the largest groves of aspen trees in the United States. Individual aspen trees do not each have their own root systems. Aspen groves form what are called “clonal colonies” with all of the trees sharing a common root system that originates from a single parent tree. Individual trees rarely live to be more than 100 or 150 years old, but the root systems can live for thousands of years, allowing new trunks to grow as older trees die.
In the Fall, Colorado’s mountains literally glow with the golden colored leaves of the aspen trees as they fall and cover the ground. Driving over the pass in the second week of September, I was a couple of weeks early for Fall colors. Instead I had to endure late summer green against a sparkling blue sky. What hardship!
Pad Tad Ke Botanical Garden is relatively new, a work in progress that has assembled plants from all over Laos and other parts of Southeast Asia. The garden project is a privately funded non-profit supported by corporate sponsors. A visit to the garden costs around $20, which is a bit pricey for these parts. Any surplus revenue beyond operating expenses is invested in training programs for Laotian and ethnic minority farmers. Experts visit villages to help farmers understand sustainable agriculture, among other things, teaching farmers who practice slash and burn agriculture how to burn without doing lasting damage to the forest, and how to cut down trees in ways that are sustainable.