Those dark areas in yesterday's photo are alive. Cryptobiotic (aka cryptogamic) soil is composed of life from three kingdoms, in fact. 1) Cyano- and other bacteria; 2) Fungi and Lichens; 3) Mosses and algae. This soil is not only fragile, it also takes a very long time to 'grow'; it's composed of tiny life forms, after all. Bottom line: stay on the trail.
With the photo above, we'll come back to the first post of 2012. Answer in tomorrow's post.