I grew up in Girdwood, Alaska, but I was 5 when we moved to southern California. In the years since moving south, I only ever visited in the summer, and so had forgotten what a fall in the great far north is like. Well this past week, I had the chance to travel back to Alaska and timed it just right with the tail end of peak fall foliage. And wow, what a shocking reminder of the stunning, stark palette that paints the boreal forests at the dawn of winter. While hidden amongst the conifers in the summer, stands of balsam poplar, quaking aspen, and Alaska paper birch (Betula neoalaskana) pop out of the hillsides, singing a mournful, though beautiful chorus in celebration of or preparation for the long cold months ahead.