We start walking at 5400 feet in elevation. The trunks of lodgepole pines are gray and scaly. The trunks of subalpine firs are gray and smooth. The crowns of the trees are dark above us as we cross a north-facing slope. This time of year the ground is frozen, and the sun may not penetrate to the forest floor. As we climb, the western larches (Larix occidentalis) reach for the light. They are golden and shedding. The trail is carpeted with needles. The larches are the biggest trees in the stand; deeply furrowed bases blackened by long-ago fire. They tower above us.
As we emerge on the rim, we see the world stretching away from us. We seek patches of sunlight, to rest and look around, and gather whatever heat we can. Our eyes go to the larches, and we shake our heads in wonder.