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US National Parks

Inyo National Forest


At the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on both sides of the Owens Valley lies Inyo National Forest, one of seventeen National Forests in California.
In the language of the Northern Paiute, "Inyo" means "dwelling place of the great spirit."

It is a great spirited place indeed - after all, it borders the deepest place in the Western Hemisphere (Death Valley) and the highest point in the continental USA (Mt. Whitney) - and it is home to the world's oldest tree.

In the Summer of 2006, we visited the eastern part of the National Forest, the White Mountains, a 60 miles-long mountain range that reaches an altitude of up to 14,000 feet. Here, we were especially interested in the Ancient Bristlecone Forest, which is home to 4,000 year-old trees.

White Mountains, picture borrowed from Wikipedia
Much of the White Mountains area lies above the tree line and the only plants one can find are moss, lichen and small wildflowers...
...but then, there are the Bristlecone Pines, and they don't care about tree lines!

Bristlecone Pines have developed unique survival strategies, making them the only large plants able to live in the subalpine zone of the White Mountains, from 9,500 feet to timberline at roughly 11,500 feet. This is one of the harshest environments one can imagine for a tree to grow. The average annual precipitation is less than 12 inches, and most of that falls as snow in winter. The summer - the normal growth period for trees - is only six weeks long and bone dry. In addition, there is no nutritious soil anywhere here but only dolomite, a limestone substrate with few nutrients.

Bristlecones can live where nothing else can, because they adhere to a very healthy lifestyle and mostly because they take it easy - very easy. Their dense wood doesn't allow bugs or fungi to penetrate, making them one of the most disease-resistant tree species in the world. Furthermore, they have the stunning ability to "hibernate." In bad years, they shut down almost their entire system, just faithfully waiting for better times, when they will reawaken again. As a result, they add no more than an inch per century to their girth - but they do that for centuries.

Dr. Schulman, the discoverer of the world's oldest tree, was amazed about their ability to live so long with so little. He once wrote: "The capacity of these trees to live so fantastically long may, when we come to understand it fully, perhaps serve as a guidepost on the road to understanding of longevity in general."

We believe we took some really good pictures of these trees, but nothing compared to this amazing picture to the left, taken in 2008 by Rob Kroenert and published at flickr.

And now, take a tour with us and see everything, this magnificent area has to offer.
Schulman Grove is the world's oldest forest. Many of the trees are over 4,000 years old, the oldest one just reached the age of 4,776. A hike through this ancient forest gives one a totally new perspective upon life in general and age in particular.

Click the right turn signal to see the world's oldest trees.XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

12 miles of unpaved road connect Schulman Grove with the other grove in the area, Patriarch Grove. Absolutely untouched nature and magnificent views made this short drive an unforgettable experience.

Click the right turn signal to ride with us through the White Mountains. XXXXXXXXXXXX

The landscape at Patriarch Grove is dotted with Bristlecone and Limber Pines.
Amongst them is "The Patriarch" - not the oldest, but the world's largest Bristlecone Pine.

Click the right turn signal to see the largest Bristlecone Pine Tree. XXXXXXXXXXXXllXX

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