On Sunday we made the short trip from Lee Vining to Bishop, CA, a distance of about sixty-three miles and are set up in Highlands RV Park for a week.
On Monday morning Dave and Sue joined us for a visit to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest outside Big Pine, CA. We drove south on Rte. 395 for about twenty miles, then turned east on Rte. 168.
Rte. 168 is a nicely paved two lane road that frequently undulates while it twists and turns heading into the mountains. At one point for about a mile it narrows to just a bit over one lane in width. Fortunately traffic is sparse and we didn’t meet anyone heading west.
Thirteen miles up (and we mean “up” as we gained significant elevation) Rte. 168 we turned north on White Mountain Road and continued to gain elevation. As we looked to the west across the Owens Valley we could see the beautiful, snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. You are looking at the two mile Palisades Glacier.
After winding up White Mountain Road to an elevation of 10,000 feet, we came to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center. In the visitor center we watched a very informative video on the bristlecone pine and research on their age conducted here in the first half of the twentieth century. After viewing the movie the four of us headed out to hike the Discovery Trail, a one mile loop with a three hundred foot elevation gain going up the hillside next to the visitor center. Following that Dave and Sue headed back to Bishop and we headed out to hike the Methuselah Walk, a four and a quarter trail that goes through an ancient bristlecone pine forest.
The bristlecone pine is the oldest living tree on earth. A tree found in this forest was measured to be 5,062 years old in 2012. Prior to that discovery, “Methuselah” was thought to be the oldest at 4,847 years old. At these high altitudes the trees have a gnarled and stunted appearance
Bristlecone wood is very hard and resistant to disease and insects. When a tree dies the wood does not decompose, it very slowly erodes. The slowly eroding remains of these dead trees create interesting formations.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time among these magnificent trees. Standing next to a living organism that is thousands of years old is just a bit humbling!