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

Great Basin: Bristlecone Pines‏

July 12th, 2010 · No Comments

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The first hike that my friend Mark and I made in Great Basin National Park last week was to see a grove of bristlecone pines growing on the slopes of Wheeler Peak. We got an early start, but didn’t get to those ancient trees that grow at tree-line (around 11,000 feet)  before about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 3. So we weren’t there at first light.

I wondering if the 3 1/2 mile hike would be worth it for the photography. Any hike is worth it for the exercise and to be out in nature!

I knew that we couldn’t capture the quality of light shining on the bristlecone pines that I had photographed a week earlier near the road leading to the top of Mount Evans, Colorado. That hike was at last light, which can be equally good for photography.

Seeing these weathered survivors in Nevada was nevertheless awe inspiring. Here researchers found the oldest non-clonal organism on this planet. That bristlecone pine tree nicknamed Prometheus was probably more than 5,000 years old when it died about 50 years ago. The Methuselah tree in California’s White Forest is 200 to 300 years younger.

The oldest identified tree that Mark and I saw is “only” 3,210 years old. According to the plaque at its base this tree was born in 1230 B.C.  This was the time of the Exodus, when the Jews escaped from Egypt and its pharaoh, Ramesses. At the same time the Achaeans conquer Troy. This was more than a century before King David ruled Israel.

This Bristlecone Pine was Born in 1230 B.C. and Still Lives

This Bristlecone Pine was Born in 1230 B.C. and Still Lives

Click on the picture above to enlarge

I think of the next bristlecone pine as a “wild tree” because its branches go every which way. Technically a “wild tree” is one that has never been climbed, as Richard Preston wrote in one of the best books I ever read, The Wild Trees. Still, I doubt if anyone ever climbed this tree either before or after it died.

A Truly Wild Tree

A Truly Wild Tree

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Finally, this relict seems to mimic one of Wheeler Peak’s peaks. Or vice versa.

Pine and Peak

Pine and Peak

Click on the picture above to enlarge

This hike was definitely worth the effort. I had long wanted to see these old bristlecone pines and feel particularly blessed to see two groves of these trees in a week.

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