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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Bristlecone Pines

June 27th, 2010 · No Comments

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Yesterday afternoon when we left Boulder to visit the Mount Goliath Natural Area, rain was coming down hard and we could see lightening and hear thunder. I wondered if this might not be the wisest time to go hiking at tree line and above.

But my good luck held. When we reached our destination, the weather was completely dry and the lightening and thunder was out on the prairie.

The Mount Goliath Research Natural Area is in the Arapahoe National Forest about 60 miles southwest of Boulder near the road leading to the top of Mount Evans. We went there to see Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pines in a 160-acre area set aside for their protection, study, interpretation, and enjoyment. Bristlecone pines may be the oldest single living organisms on earth, capable of living up to 5,000 years. The ones here are up to 1,600 years old.

They live in isolated groves at and just below the tree line, which in Colorado is 11,500 feet. Because the temperature is almost always so cold at this altitude and because of the dry soil, high winds, and short growing seasons, bristlecone pines grow slowly.

We hiked the trail through the trees until we were above tree line. I was short of breath from the altitude but had more energy than on the hike that Sharon and I had taken in Rocky Mountain National Park the previous day.

Sharon and I met up with a four other hikers and photographers on a Sierra Club photo hike. When the group reached the natural area around 5:30, the temperature was about 50 degrees cooler than in Boulder and windy enough that I appreciated my gloves. But the sun was out, and soon the wind died, blessing us with a much better day on the mountain than I had even hoped for.

Not only had I never been to the Mount Goliath Research Natural Area before, I hadn’t even heard of it before reading the Sierra Club trip announcement. And while I have known about these hardy trees for most of my life, these were the first that I have ever seen.

The setting is wild and beautiful.

The View from the Trail

The View from the Trail

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In the Distance is Denver, Although it Feels a Million Miles Away

In the Distance is Denver, Although it Feels a Million Miles Away

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An Ancient Bristlecone Pine

An Ancient Bristlecone Pine

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Two Ancient Trees

Two Ancient Trees

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A Trunk

A Trunk

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The Grain

The Grain

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Knots

Knots

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This Bent Trunk Reminds me of a Bull

This Bent Trunk Reminds me of a Bull

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Bristlecone Wood

Bristlecone Wood

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Budding Cones

Budding Cones

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Purple Cones

Purple Cones

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A Bristlecone

A Bristlecone

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A Bristlecone Stump at Sunset

A Bristlecone Stump at Sunset

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As we left the Mount Goliath Research Natural Area, I joked that David had conquered Goliath. In reality, what I conquered was my fears that could have kept me from enjoying this scene of great natural beauty.

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