Leave the montane zone behind and climb high enough, and you reach the alpine tundra – “alpine” to distinguish it from arctic tundra, although the two ecosystems are much the same.
After looking up at the treeless tops of the mountains for so long, it was incredible to actually be up in them.
You reach these high places via Trail Ridge Road, which winds up and then down again, from one end of Rocky Mountain National Park to the other. We were relieved that the main walking trail was clear of snow, because the road had only opened for the season a couple weeks before, and in places we drove between towering walls of snow. In late June!
In other places the snow was in the process of melting, creating ephemeral pools and streams of clear, cold, pure water.
I gave a presentation in a college botany class years ago on the adaptations of plants to arctic and alpine environments, so seeing this all in person was fascinating for me. The lichens and wildflowers are each going to get their own post!