For our second day in Great Basin NP we decided to hike the Bristlecone and Glacier Trail. The Bristlecone Trail led us to a loop where interpretive signs in a bristlecone pine grove explain the lives and significance of these ancient trees. The Glacier Trail is the continuation of the Bristlecone Trail. It continues beyond the bristlecone pine grove to the only glacier in Nevada, nestled beneath Wheeler Peak.
As we drove into the park we were again impressed by all the color around us. We drove up the Wheeler Peak Scenic Road for about twelve miles to a viewing area to get a photo of some of that color. But when the photographer in the group took the first picture, she discovered that the SD card was missing from the camera. It was apparent that someone (we’ll refrain from using his name) had left it in the computer. Sooooo, back down the mountain we went to retrieve the missing card.
Once we had returned to the park we hiked up the trail for about a mile and half where the trees began to become very interesting.
Bristlecone pines are the the longest-living tree on earth, surviving for thousands of year. Bristlecone pines in Great Basin National Park grow in isolated groves just below the treeline. Conditions are harsh, with cold temperatures, a short growing season, and high winds. Bristlecone pines in these high-elevation environments grow very slowly, and in some years don’t even add a ring of growth. This slow growth makes their wood very dense and resistant to insects, fungi, rot, and erosion.
Many of the bristlecones along the trail have interpretive signs at their base. The pine pictured above has the sign pictured below at its base.
The sign below refers to the picture above.
As we walked through these amazing trees we wondered how scientists determined the age of the trees. A sign along the path answered that for us.
Can’t read that small print? Don’t reach for those little magnifying glasses you bought for a dollar. It’s enlarged below.
A bristlecone pine is differentiated from other pines by its long needles that are about one inch long, and grow in packets of five. The needles completely surround the branches and look like bottle cleaner brushes.
After going through the bristlecones, we continued up the trail heading for the glacier, located a little over a mile up the trail.
Most of the trail was over that pesky loose rock called scree. But the trail was shorter and the elevation change much less than the difficult hike we did yesterday up the Wheeler Peak Summit trail.
The trail ends at the Wheeler Rock Glacier, the only glacier in Nevada. The Wheeler Peak Glacier sits at the base of Wheeler Peak, in a protected cirque ( a half-open steep-sided hollow at the head of a valley or on a mountainside, formed by glacial erosion.) around 11,500 feet in elevation. The glacier measures 300 feet long and 400 feet wide. Its exact depth is unknown. As glaciers go, this one was not very impressive to us. That’s probably due to our recent visit to the Icefields Parkway near Banff, where large glaciers are numerous. But hey, a glacier in Nevada! Who knew ?
The rock walls behind the glacier contained a number of frozen water falls. We wondered when the ice ever thawed enough for water to flow. Maybe in July?
The view looking back down the valley on our return was pretty impressive.
As we hiked back through the bristlecones, we were again intrigued by many of these beautiful trees.
At least two of our readers expressed an interest in visiting Great Basin NP and asked about camping facilities. So we drove through one of the four campgrounds in the park, Wheeler Campground, and took the photo below of a typical site. There are no hook-ups in any of the four campgrounds but the roads and sites are paved and each campground has water and pit toilets.
We have one more day visiting the park. The nimble hiker has been doing some intense research on our next hiking adventure so stop back to see what she has planned.
PS. A couple of readers have commented on the great color in many of our photos and asked about our camera. We’ve used a number of small point and shoot cameras and are currently using a Sony DSC-WX350. It has a 20x zoom, many different settings, and is light and easy to carry. We really like this little camera and highly recommend it.