The Oldest Living Things On Earth – Ancient Bristlecone Forest, CA
They are the oldest single living organism on earth. Older than the birth of Christ, almost as old as the beginning of Egyptian Civilization. Many exceed centuries in age, the oldest a mind-boggling ~4,600 years old…still growing, still living, still biding her time. These are not just trees, they are living testaments of history, each decade etched into their ring structure, each climatic event curled into their gnarled branches. We are in the Ancient Bristlecone Forest, high above the valley floor and standing here in their presence is
Bristlecones only grow in very, very isolated areas, typically right below the tree-line in dry, arid, cold locations. They are incredibly resilient and incredibly slow-growing. Roots can extend over 50 feet, pine needles can stay on the tree for 40 years and pieces of dead wood have been dated back 11,000+ years! The very oldest living pines are the ones that have been exposed to the most difficult conditions (as they say “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”) and they sit right here in the mountains of Eastern California (the Great Basin Bristlecones = Pineas Longaeva). Methuselah, named after the longest-lived person in the bible, is the very oldest of the lot. She’s over 4,600 years young and no-one will tell you her exact location, but you can take a break right by her grove and meditate on the hugeness of life in her most awesome presence.
I was turned on to visit this place by blog reader Maryanne. Hidden away in the White Mountains on an ancient sea floor (now at ~10,000 feet), these trees are truly a unique experience. We waited for the perfect moment to see them, letting the weekend snow-storms pass so we could appreciate them in a serene blanket of white and blue. When conditions opened up all four of us raced over to take the 4-mile Methuselah hike so we could see the oldest of the lot.
And what a fabulous outing it was! Steep slopes of snow dotted with Bristlecone sculptures (they really are more art than tree), and sweeping valley views. Walking through this historic place is meditative and very almost spiritual. The hike was slippery and icy in spots, Lu (poor girl) was dizzy, and one of us (I won’t say whom) managed to fall on our ass, but we were ALL completely awed and overwhelmed by these amazing trees. The oldest living things on earth, right here in our presence, alive and thriving only ~1 hour from our campsite. It was an honor and a priviledge….and I thank Maryanne for the tip!
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