I’m marching through a stand of blackened, towering pine trees with fire ecologist Philip Higuera. He stops and sniffs the air.
“We can smell the charcoal here,” he says. “You smell that?”
Higuera is a low-key guy with a trimmed beard and sporty sunglasses. When I ask him whether the massive wildfire that raced across this mountain last summer was bad, however, he corrects me.
“It was bad if your house got burned in it, it was bad if you were breathing in a lot of smoke and it inconvenienced you, but for the forest itself it just was,” he says.