We drove out to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest one afternoon to meet the world's oldest living (singular) things. The road up into the White Mountains is a fun, hilly, curvy, pretty drive. We decided to hike the Methuselah Trail, starting at the visitor center. 4.5 miles? No problem. We're pretty used to these crazy elevations by now, after hiking Zion and Bryce Canyons. The visitor center was closed, and the brochure box at the trail head was empty - double bummer. Whatevs, we saw the largest trees ever, now it's time to see the oldest trees ever!
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Along the trail
See how close together the rings are
It is humbling to consider all that these elders have lived through. Time seems a bit off on that trail, and the sky changed from overcast, to blue, to stormy gray while the white mountains glared in the sunlight. There is a 900 feet elevation loss and gain. We wandered slowly down the trail at first, inspecting all the little details of these gnarled beasts. After awhile, we realized the trail did not seem to be looping back to the visitor's center. How long have we been out here?
Many of these trees look dead at first glance, but as long as they have a single strip of bark running up the trunk, they are able to survive. The exposed wood makes beautiful colors and patterns.
This was about the time we felt the fear creeping in - high elevations, low blood sugar, little shade, running out of water, fighting nausea, the ever present knowledge of our finite human existence...we had not passed any fellow hikers since leaving the almost empty parking lot.
We took it slowly and continued up the trail. It brought us to the top of this mountain where you can see all the way to Death Valley. We found a bench along the trail and stopped to take in the scene and eat some trail mix before pushing on again. We passed two fellow hikers!
Pine Cone River
One mile to go!
The clouds part above us
Almost back to the car
We became dangerously low on gasoline driving up, but were able to coast the whole way back to town...
..and back into Rusty's Saloon, our local Checkerboard equivalent.
Cheers to surviving our ill-planned adventure!