August 14, 2014

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Discovery Trail

I often feel sad that California is largely known geographically for its beaches. I have driven the length of California probably over a hundred times in my life, shuttling between my parents house to college, then my Arizona home to my in-laws. I have done 1, 101, 99, and 5, but I still really enjoy the lesser-known Highway 395 up the eastern side of the Sierras. There is so much to see along here and no one seems to go this way.

I also feel sad that everyone knows that California has the tallest living thing, the California Redwood, and the largest living tree, the Sequoia, but most fail to realize that California also has one of the oldest living things in the United States right here on the eastern side of the Sierras in the White Mountains of the Inyo National Forest -- the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine. Some of these trees right along the Discovery Trail are well over 4,000 years old.

The visitor center at the Schulman Grove can give you the complete low-down on why these trees have adapted to this unique environment. You can also learn about their super-sappy, resin-laden and bristly pine cones, and the dendrochronologists who discovered these trees, but the real action is out on the trail where you can get up close and personal to these magnificent trees. The hike is listed as a 1-mile loop, but it seems MUCH longer. Possibly the hike seems longer because of the 10,000+ ft elevation, or maybe because you are stopping so much to photograph them, but plan accordingly. Hiking shoes are necessary due to the loose rock along the trail and the steep incline. Drink lots of water and bring lots of camera battery life!

Length: 1 mile
Elevation gain: 300 ft
Time it took us: 2 hours
Dogs allowed: yes
Fees: $3 per adult or $6 per carload
Directions: From US Hwy 395, turn east on Hwy 168 just north of Big Pine. Follow Hwy 168 for 13 miles to White Mountain Road and turn left (north) for another 10 miles to the Schulman Grove.

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