The climate and weather become more severe, with colder temperatures, higher winds, more ice, snow and rain, and an increasingly curtailed growing season. The plants are fewer and sometimes of rare kinds, the animals hardy and adapted, or temporary seasonal transients.
Though not visually dramatic with stereotypical big trees, the tracts of higher terrain are some of the largest, untouched “virgin” lands in the state, thousands of contiguous acres that had been inaccessible and/or unproductive commercially for so long in our history. In these wild expanses, far-ranging wildlife such as black bear and bobcat live and travel in their seasonal movements; hawks, bats, and songbirds in great numbers pass through and over in migration; unusual species, unique to these places, hang on for dear life.
Ironically, the ages-old toughness of our mountains translates not into durability, but just the opposite: fragility. The environment at higher elevations is far more vulnerable to outside disturbances, both natural and human-induced, than at lower altitudes: any damage takes a greater toll on resident life, takes longer to self-repair (if it ever does), and the effects compound downhill (or, if towers and wind turbines are involved, higher, for creatures that fly).