California’s Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Whoa… no posts for quite a bit of time. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time floating around California… spending time with family and friends mostly. I have managed to get myself out and about a bit, although maybe not as much as I would have liked. One place I did manage to spend quite a bit of time in was Mammoth Lakes, CA; a small mountain/ski town in the Eastern Sierras. As it’s summer, there’s no skiing, but plenty of outdoor summer activities (fishing, mountain biking, hiking, etc.) if you like that sort of thing (I think you know that I do… well, at least hiking anyhow).

On the drive up from San Diego I saw a sign touting the “Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest” and thought it might be worth checking out. A week or so later, after some intrawebz investigating, I found myself driving back down from Mammoth for a solid afternoon of exploring. Now, the attraction here is that forest contains the oldest living tree on the planet (named Methuselah, the tree is an amazing 4,484 years old as of 2013… smartly, but also sadly, the actual tree is unmarked for fear of vandalism). That, plus, as you will see below, these trees look amazing. As you might expect, the forest itself is pretty remote (this whole region of California is pretty remote and sparsely populated) so it took sometime to wind my way up into the mountains get there, but it was well worth the effort. I’ll bore you with some of the details I found interesting before getting to the pictures. There’s two main groups/groves of trees, one you can get two via a paved road. The other is 12-miles away on a dirt and gravel road (it took me 45 minutes to go 12 miles one way). Both groves are up pretty high elevation-wise, but the one at the end of the dirt road is above 11,000 feet (3,350 meters for you metric thinkers). Each grove has some small hikes, but the lower one has a nice 5-mile loop that will also take you by an abandoned mine. I went to both areas and did the big loop as the sun was setting, which made for some really nice views (given the light) and ensured I had the place almost all to myself (only one other car in the parking lot when I left). It’s hard to explain how majestic the place felt…maybe the photos can convey some of it. All in all, a very good way to spend a day.

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Abandoned mine building…

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Abandoned mine shaft… note, that it looked entirely possible to worm oneself around that grate.

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These trees seem to grow right out of solid rock…

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Who’s national forest you in? I’m inyo national forest… sorry, could not resist.

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