The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest sits at 10,000′ elevation in California’s White Mountain range, just east of the Sierra Nevada and Owens Valley. The main draws are the ancient specimens that are over 3000 – and sometimes 4000 – years old.
The trees aren’t huge like their neighbors to the west, the Giant Sequoia, but they are the oldest known woody trees in the world. They are also breathtaking.
Dead pine on the Schulman Grove’s Discovery Trail
Two trails lead visitors past the best known specimens, the Methuselah Trail and the Discovery Trail. The Discovery Trail is the shorter of the two at 1 mile long. It’s designed to provide views of the grove’s most photographed trees.
Living and dead bristlecone pines
It’s no wonder the trees are popular among bonsai fans. Their sometimes squat forms demonstrate many years’ battle with extreme elements and feature some of the most beautiful sculptural deadwood of any woody tree species.
Bristlecone pine with huge trunk
Bristlecone pine deadwood
These trees stand at the very edge of the Bristlecone Pine forest. To the west, one can see the peaks of the Sierra Nevada beyond a field of sage brush.
View from the Discovery Trail
The Schulman Grove’s Methuselah Trail is the longer of the two trails at 4.5 miles. Walking the trail is a great way to get a feel for how the pines grow and the environment in which they live. The route passes thousands of bristlecone pines, including some fairly spectacular trees.
Bristlecone pine with roots exposed due to erosion
Little else grows among the older specimens. Bristlecone pines are well-suited to the dry environment in which they live where 80% of the precipitation comes in the form of snow (“The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest,” Johnson 32).
Bristlecone pines clinging to bare rocks
The Methuselah Trail gets its name from the Methuselah Grove through which it passes – a small collection of the oldest trees in the area. Many are over 4,000 years old.
Old bristlecone pine in the Methuselah Grove
Old bristlecone pines
Looking off to either side of the trail while hiking can reveal stumps with fantastical shapes and healthy specimens that can provide inspiration for one’s container creations.
Bristlecone pine deadwood
Healthy bristlecone pines on a gentle slope
If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend a visit. Check out the Forest Service website for details.
- Most Ancient Forest – more photos from the Methuselah Trail
- Bristlecone Pine – details about the variety’s growth habits
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