Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ROADTRIP: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to the oldest trees on the planet, and they are spectacular to see. Especially when you realize they've been spectacular to see longer than we've had a country to see. The trees live in extremely harsh conditions and poor soil, and for some reason it makes them live a very long time and grow very strangely. They can live in better soil and conditions, but they don't live as forever or as twisty.

These ancient bristlecones are in Inyo National Forest, west of Big Pine. There is also the ruin of an old mine to look at when you get tired of trees. Not that I ever do. In fact, the idea of seeing the oldest tree in the world -- more than 5,000 years old -- is exciting to me in the way most people reserve for say, George Clooney. Especially when you stop by the Visitors Center and it's manned by Forest Service personnel just as excited about trees as I am (and who say, of course Wonder Dog can come in the new beautiful Visitor's Center. How cool is the Forest Service?). And I completely understand why the tree is not marked. I would not want the oldest tree on the planet vandalized, and it's fun to try and guess which one is the great tree.

If Great Basin Bristlecones weren't too busy growing into twisty shapes at an exceedingly slow pace, they might have time to argue with mesquite and creosote about what's the oldest organism on earth. Or maybe they don't think of themselves as separate.

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