Of the many scenic wonders found within the Inyo National Forest, one of the most amazing is the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, located between 10,000 and 11,000 ft. in the White Mountains, east of the Sierra Nevada. These trees are the oldest known living trees on earth. Here in the White Mountains, the ancient trees have survived more than 40 centuries, exceeding the age of the oldest Giant Sequoia by 1,500 years. For trees that old, one would expect giants, but Bristlecone pines look more like weathered dwarfs than like old giants. They add no more than an inch per century to their girth. The harsh climate above 10,000 ft elevation and very poor soil conditions don’t let things grow too big. As a matter of fact, Bristlecone pines are the only trees to have adapted to these conditions. That gives them a competitive edge allowing for a long and undisturbed life.
The above coordinates refer to “point 15? of the self-guided tour of the Methuselah Loop Trail. This point is called
The Ancient Forest. Each Bristlecone pine, from young seedling to ancient relic, has an individual character. And in the Ancient Forest, where trees had more than four and a half millennia to develop their character, each tree is a true individual. Every single tree in the Ancient Forest is at least 4,000 years old, many reach 4,500 years and the oldest one – Methuselah – has a confirmed age of 4,768 years which secured its place in the Guinness Book of World Records. In order to protect Methuselah from souvenir hunters and people who would just “love it to death,” the forest service does not disclose its location. It only hints that Methuselah is on of the trees right along the trail in the Ancient Forest. So, we took pictures of the most magnificent trees along that trail. Rest assured that each and every one of them is older than any other tree you have ever seen and that one of them is Methuselah.
If these trees could talk they would tell us what it means to be 4,600 years old:
“The oldest of us started growing at around the time when the Great Pyramid of Giza was completed (2600 BC). We were 600 years old when Stonehenge was completed (2000 BC) and 800 years at the beginning of the Bronze Age (1800 BC). When we were 1,100 years old (1500 BC) the Maya Civilization rose in Central America and when we were 1,300 years old (1300 BC), Moses lead the Hebrews from Eygpt to the land of Israel. Most of us were already 1,400 years old when the ancient Pueblo civilization rose in North America while at the same time, at the other end of the world, the Greeks fought in the Trojan War (1194 BC). We were 1,800 years old at the beginning of the Iron Age (800 BC) and some of us reached already 1,900 years when the city of Rome was founded (753 BC). We were close to 2,100 years old when Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment and founded Buddhism in India. When we were 2,100 years old, China’s first emperor built the Great Wall of China (528 BC) and when we were 2,500 years old, Julius Caesar was born. We were 2,600 years old when Jesus Christ was born and 3,200 years old when Muhammad founded Islam (610). King William conquered England when we were 3,760 years old (1066) and Christoph Columbus landed in America when we were 4,370 years old (1492). We were almost 4,400 years old when the United States declared independence and had reached the age of 4,450 when California joined the Union. And we keep getting older still!
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