Whenever we visit California we seem to find ourselves visiting amazing trees. We have played under and on Giant Sequoias in Kings Canyon National Park, felt infinitesimally small hiking through the Redwood forests along the northern coast, and this past week we felt like relative infants while visiting a grove of the world’s oldest trees at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest near Bishop, CA.
While Bristlecone Pine trees don’t have the girth or stature of Sequoias and Redwoods they are seriously old trees. In fact the oldest living tree on earth (called Methuselah) is a Bristlecone Pine that is 4,765 years old. Unlike most trees the oldest Bristlecone Pines are actually the most twisted and stunted looking. Bristlecones growing in harsh conditions grow more slowly thereby developing compact, resinous wood which helps defend them from insects and diseases. These trees are amazing at growing in harsh conditions with poor soil and little water. They have figured out how to get just enough of what they need to survive year after year.
It was quite the experience driving to the Schulman Grove (named fro Dr. Edmund Schulman who first discovered how old Bristlecone Pines trees are). In order to reach the grove you must drive up to an elevation of over 9,000 feet with amazing views of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. After over 30 minutes of driving straight up along a winding road we finally made it to the grove where we were greeted with the interesting formations of the Bristlecone Pines.
After checking out the visitors center we set out to hike the Discovery Trail and view trees that have been around since the Roman Empire was going strong. It was a very humbling experience to be in the presence of such ancient trees. The twisted formations and the colors are absolutely stunning and it was hard to stop ourselves from taking a picture of each tree. Now we just need to travel to the Arctic to visit the world’s smallest tree (the Dwarf Willow).