Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bristlecone Pines

We were bound and determined to visit the Bristlecone Pines on our recent trip to the Eastern Sierras. As it turned out, the weather set the terms and conditions for that. A storm was coming, and we were told to get up there ASAP or not at all.

So we started at the crack of dawn and drove two hours from Lone Pine--up, up, up, up!--to the Schulman Grove. There we were greeted by a chorus of hammers at the new visitor center under construction. So we pressed on another half hour to the Patriarch Grove at 11,000+ square feet, where we we got our reward--perfect weather and the entire place to ourselves. (Above: the road in)

"Perfect weather" meant temperatures in the 30s with brilliant sunshine and puffs of picturesque clouds moving through at high speed. We were dressed for the cold and were in heaven tramping about, first up one trail and then another. All the pictures in this post are from the Patriarch Grove.

I was surprised and happy to see that the bristlecone pines aren't just the half-dead, picturesque oldsters. There is a forest in all stages of development coming up, from babies to adolescents to young adults. The new cones are a bright, royal blue color.

Above, the Patriarch itself--the largest bristlecone pine with a diameter of over 30 feet. A relative youngster, the Patriarch is around 1,500 years old. Some of the bristlecones are well over 4,000 years old. It is unforgettable to be in their presence.