Photo not-so-Friday, Bristlecone Pine Forest

Nature. Outdoors. Hiking and camping. That stuff always fascinated me. Hiking was (and still is) my refuge. Spending time in nature redraws problems. Draws back the veil or lights them differently. They don’t magically go away, but a little bit of perspective doesn’t hurt.

Camping has not been quite as accessible for me as hiking. Being a chick, going alone doesn’t seem like an intelligent option. My current cadre of friends, in general, aren’t really into that, especially the kind of trips that capture my attention the most. Primitive camping and backpacking. In July 2010, I did find a group of random strangers to camp with, which is the origin of this photo. [A special thanks to Tom, Suzy, Jesse, and Tracy.]

This is a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains in California. Aside from haphazardly exploring some mine shafts and conquering the biggest elevation gain of my fumbling hiking career, we spent half a day in this ancient forest. The landscape is austere, to say the least. The mountains, as you might guess from their name, are comprised of white and grey stone. Some of it is so broken up, it looks like the product of glaciation.

I might be mistaken, but if I remember right, these trees constitute the oldest living things on the planet. Methuselah is the most anciet tree, not only in the grove, but in the world. 4750 years of rooting into the ground, feeling the wind tumble over it, thirsting sometimes more and sometimes less.

The trees here are a strange mix of underwhelming and supernatural. They don’t just grow. They twist and curl and spire. Some trees look dead, with only a few sprigs of green, but really this is just an example of their amazing adaptability. Bristlecones are judicious and miserly with their resources. The hue of their skin hovers between a grey pallor, like their surroundings, and a delicious warm glow.

The underwhelming feelings fades the further along the trail you go. The groves are quiet, except for the birds calling. The trees thrive on rock. Coming to understand their environment imbues a respect for these beings. They are survivors. And beyond that, they are history’s sentinels. Think of the last 4000 years. This of ALL that has happened in that 4000 years. The trees that surround you have stood through it, breathed it and drank it. That is magic.

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