Laura Stull

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Laura Stull
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Making the most of our itinerary reroute, we spent a couple days hiking around and photographing the oldest trees on the planet. A welcome interlude between the bustling national parks of the American West, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest within Inyo National Forest is calm, quiet, and sparsely visited, a reminder of the value of wilderness solitude.

Tucked away in the White Mountains above Bishop, California, many of these trees are nearly 5,000 years old. They live just below tree-line in isolated alpine environments, braving below freezing temperatures, harsh winds, and soil inhospitable to most other plant life. Despite near impossible conditions, bristlecone pine thrive where almost all other flora fail, growing slowly but resolutely over thousands of years into gnarled and twisted forms.

With only two days in the area, we hiked the four-mile loop through the Methuselah Grove where the oldest bristlecone pine grow. The next morning, we woke before sunrise to venture the twelve miles toward the Patriarch Grove to photograph these impressive trees above 11,000 feet in front of spectacular panoramic vistas. We were in awe of these ancient trees, marveling that at so many pivotal moments throughout history these trees were already alive and thriving, and we hope they'll continue to be the watchful wards of Inyo National Forest for centuries to come!