We awoke to a beautiful morning. The weather up here is much warmer than it was at our last couple of campsites. If we didn’t desperately need showers and were not low on water, I’d suggest that we stay a second night!
After breakfast, we packed up and headed back up to the Schulman Grove Visitor Center with plans to walk the 4-mile Methuselah Walk. The walk “leads you through the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, past the oldest known living tree in the world” – according to the self-tour walking guide that we purchased. We have found these self guided walking tour guides to be very informative and rather well written.
In 2001, there was a PBS documentation made about the Methuselah Tree.
Apparently the Methuselah Tree is no longer the ‘oldest’ known living tree, as there was another that has now be dated to be over 5000 years old (it is in the same area).
We hiked 6.32 km in just over 3 hours.
The trail had rather steep edges. It was amazing to see trees clinging to the sides:
Looking off into the distance, you can see the hills made of dolomite with dessert sage bush and Bristlecone Pine dotting their slopes.
Few species can tolerate the nutrient-poor and highly alkaline dolomite soil. This gives the slow growing Bristlecone a chance to grow nearly competition-free.
For a new bristlecone pine see to form, pollen from cones,…,must pollinate a small purple bristly seed cone. Once pollinated, the small cone closes and begins to grow before winter. Next spring, the captured pollen will fertilize the ovule and seeds will develop. The seed code then grows rapidly and matures in the fall, opening to release a tiny white winged seed into the wind.
The Methuselah Tree itself itself is not identified, to help protect it from vandalism. Instead, there is a labelled post and some nice rocks that act as a bench which overlooks a grove of several ancient trees, any of them could be the official Methuselah Tree. I’m now wondering if one of them is the even older, as yet unnamed, tree?
I wonder, which one of these trees is the Methuselah Tree?
Many of these ancient trees have exposed portions of their trunks. They only need one small strip of bark to carry nutrients between the pine needles and the roots.
Bristlecones were made famous for their age, but are most important to science because of their ability to record climate trends. Because the year’s growth depends entirely on the conditions of that year, the trees are sensitive to environmental changes, unlike a tree that may grow next to a stream and have the same amount of available moisture each year. Bristlecone’s sensitive nature gives scientists records of the past. Climates, droughts, severe frost, fires, and volcanic eruptions can all be recorded in these ancient pieces of wood.
A snag may stand for thousands of years before it will eventually fall. This dead and down wood is of particular interest to scientists. Because the wood is so slow to decay, scientists can find pieces that are over 11,000 years old! Tree ring patterns in the dead and down wood are matched to other pieces and eventually to a living tree, allowing an exact date to be determined. This is called cross-dating and it has helped to recalibrate the radiocarbon dating process, linking these trees to history all over the world.
After the hike we headed back to Bishop to do some laundry. We found a laundromat that also had showers – the cost was a bit steep, at $5 each, but given that we had not showered since Friday, we were in need! It was convenient to be able to do laundry, shower, check the Internet, and charge devices all at the same time.
We tried to grab a light dinner at one of the Bakeries in Bishop, but the sandwich counter was closed for the day.
We decided that our next destination would be Rock Creek. Our map of the Inyo Nation Forest showed that there were several different campgrounds along Rock Creek Road. In addition, we learned that all them had drinking water!
Before setting up for the night, we followed the road to its end, and along the way passed Rock Creek Lake.
After exploring each of the open campgrounds, we chose a spot in the Upper Pines Campground. Our plan is to spend two nights here, and do a couple of different hikes in the area. The campground is at elevation 2875m or 9432 feet.
And of course the obligatory sunset photo: