Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday scenes and scenery: ancient trees endure

Last week we hiked a short trail through the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of southern California.

These strange gnarled survivors scratch out an existence at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level on slopes of dusty, rocky dolomite, receiving only about 10-12 inches of annual precipitation. They literally grow out of rocks.

What these trees excel at is enduring. The oldest living trees ever identified by scientists are here, some pegged as over 4600 years old.

The rangers call the grove's oldest known specimen "Methusalah."

It is unmarked for its protection, but it continues to survive and even produce viable seeds just like many of its 3,000 and 4,000 year oldl neighbors. Greater adversity grows stronger trees, century after century after century.

...Large tree size does not necessarily indicate older trees ... stunted trees are 3,000-4,000 years old and grow old not in spite of adversity but because of it.

Bristlecones have adapted to be old.

Like human women, bristlecones even endure beyond their reproductive years, serving as necessary habitat for birds and insects that are part of the web that makes the forest possible in this harsh setting.
***
As much as ever, I felt my own physical aging on the trails last week. Hiking at altitude was difficult; my balance is not what it once was, but trekking poles help; I bruised and punctured myself in a few falls. But enduring still has delights.

2 comments:

Classof65 said...

Thank you for sharing this with us!

Your love for the environment shows in every post of the back country. Your endurance is remarkable. Although I'm not particularly fond of the desert, your narrative points out the wonderfully enduring vegetation and its role in supporting the wildlife in the area and gives me a better appreciation of the area.

Hattie said...

Hike hike hike as long as you can! I miss hiking so much!

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