A visit to earth’s oldest living organisms

by | Jul 25, 2016 | Nature

California has the tallest peak (Mt. Whitney) in the continental US and the lowest point (Death Valley.) It also boasts the tallest trees, the biggest trees and the oldest trees.

The latter are the Bristlecone pines, located in the White Mountains, one of which has been dated as 5,065 years old. My wife and went there last week. There are two basic choices: you can visit the three trails at the Shulman Grove where access is nicely paved. Or you can take the 12 mile washboard, gravel and rock-the-size-of-your fist road up to Patriarch Grove, altitude 11,333 feet. We chose the latter and spent 60+ minutes getting there.

It’s a nervous drive in a minivan, but one that afford gorgeous panoramic views that change as the road switches directions.

This tree is in the Shulman Grove, around 8,300 feet. It is one of the younger trees.

The Bristlecone pines endure so long because they are tough. Resin in the wood keeps away bugs and rendersĀ it so hard the wood erodes more like stone. Mix in a hostile environment with high winds and you get spectacular, twisted specimens.

Here are a few images I took on our visit. Naturally, these trees have attracted photographers from all over the world, many of whom have recorded some astonishing photographs. I happened to meet another photographer up at the summit, Paul DeLapa, who is not famous, but who takes beautiful landscapes. I thought everyone should have a chance to enjoy his work.