Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Big Pine Reviews
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest May 27, 2008
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest has two groves of Bristlecone Pines: Schulman Grove at 10.000 feet/3000 m high and, even higher, Patriarch Grove at 11.200 fl/3400m high. Schulman Grove lies about an hours’ (20 miles) drive from Bishop on a good paved but twisty road (with beautiful views of the valley and mountains in the distance). Take US Hwy 395 to Big Pine and turn east onto State Hwy 168 just north of Big Pine. Follow Hwy 168 east 13 miles to White Mountain Road. Turn left (north) and drive 10 miles to the Schulman Grove Visitor Center. As we experienced, the weather doesn’t always cooperate for a visit. In general, the Forest is open from mid-May to October and there is a $3.00 per adult to a maximum of $5.00 per vehicle. Fees can be paid at the Visitors Center when open or at a self-service fee tube near the Visitor Center.
Schulman Grove has a small but nice Visitors Center with exhibits, a small shop, restrooms (very important!) and in the area are picnic tables, hiking trails and even a nearby campground. The Bristlecone pines can be viewed from the parking area of the Visitors center and along three interpretive nature trails. Because of the snow, we couldn’t hike the trails (in fact, we couldn’t even find them!).
Patriarch Grove is an additional 12-mile drive north of Schulman Grove on a dirt road that was still closed when we were there. Here you can find the world's largest Bristlecone Pine, the Patriarch Tree.
The oldest living organism known in the world is a bristlecone pine tree nicknamed “Methuseleh” (after the longest-lived person in the Bible). Methuseleh’s location is kept a secret to protect it from vandalism. Its age is measured at 4,789 years old!
A sad story: there was an even older pine than Methuseleh called “Prometheus”. When a student was taking core samples of trees to measure their age, his coring tool kept breaking so he applied for and, amazingly enough, got permission from the U.S. Forest Service to cut down the tree to take his measurements! After Prometheus was cut down, its rings were counted and it was discovered that the oldest living thing known to man had just been killed. Prometheus was at least 4,844 years old! This shocking story led to protest and later, the granting of protected status to the Forest.
Bristlecones require special surroundings to grow to their great age. They only grow at high altitude in arid surroundings. The more inhospitable the surroundings, the older the tree gets! Sometimes, almost the entire tree is dead, only a thin strip of bark still lives and grows on. The wood is very dense and resinous so the wood doesn’t decay when the tree dies, it just gets eroded away slowly by the elements, shaped into all kinds of interesting shapes.
For everything you ever wanted to know about the great Bristlecone Pine, check out this website: http://www.sonic.net/bristlecone/home.html
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