Saturday above 10,000 feet - Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
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Hooked
GTV-300ie Touring
Joined: 12 Aug 2016
Posts: 340
Location: Bishop, CA
Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:29 pm quote
So, it was another beautiful day in the Owens Valley, and what is there to do but ride it out? I gave thought to a couple of the more desolate locations (Bishop is sort of in the middle of nowhere - more than 2 hours drive to any town more than 10,000 population). I thought maybe out to Tonopah Nevada (home of the infamous Clown Motel. . There's also the Fish Lake Valley ride, through a very dry, very long, very "rural Nevada" kind of ride to Dyer, NV.

But, perhaps some other day, when it was less hot. I decided to head up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest, home of some of the oldest living things on earth. It's not too far from home. Big Pine, California, is just 15 miles south of Bishop, and you head east on Hwy 168 up to Westgard pass, and ride up to over 10,000 feet elevation, where the seasonal visitor center is.

Once there, you have a choice of two different hikes. One is a relatively easy hike of a 1-mile loop. The other takes you through Schulman Grove, home of trees older than the pyramids. Methuselah, one of the oldest, is just over 4,800 years old.

Bristlecone pine trees hold their needles about 40 years before they grow new ones. They put on about an inch of girth every 100 years. So, if you see a tree over 30 inches radius, you're looking at something that has grown in that place for over 3,000 years!

I hiked the Methuselah trail, which I've done a couple of times before. Four miles at 10,000 feet can really take it out of you. I brought a liter of water, but it wasn't enough. The only potable water is sold at the visitor center, so plan accordingly.

As always, the hike was beautiful. From many spots on the trail, you can look west back into Owens Valley, or east into Nevada (Fish Lake Valley, Deep Springs, etc.). For those of you who haven't heard of it, Deep Springs College is the most exclusive 2-year college in the USA, and is a unique experience for its graduates. I happen to know a couple of folks who worked there, and live in Bishop now. It's pretty interesting.

Anyway, the visitor center is brand new. It burned down a couple of years back (suspected arson), so it's a new facility, and the rangers are great. If you see Dave Hardin, he's a retired middle school teacher from Bishop, and *loves* talking to visitors about Bristlecone biology. You'll learn a LOT from the friendliest ranger in the Forest Service.

I spent the day hiking, and rode the long, twisty road back to Big Pine, then home to Bishop. Enjoy the pics, and get out there and ride!

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This was the route from home and back again.

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Carrol's Market in Big Pine. The only grocery in town, and where I bought my water. Nice place to stock up before heading up. It's also the closest!

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The GTV at the big pine, in Big Pine. This giant Sequoia was planted in 1913, dedicated to Teddy Roosevelt. It marks the intersection of Highway 395, and Highway 168, the latter which goes up to the Bristlecone Pine forest.

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Dave Hardin, the friendliest ranger around, teaching visitors all about Bristlecone biology.

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The new visitor center, built a couple of years ago, after someone burned down the old one.

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The trailhead to the Methuselah Trail. About 4.5 miles, which at over 10,000 feet elevation, is harder than it sounds.

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These are the "young" bristlecones, near the visitor center. Interestingly, because these are closer to water and wind-shaded, they will die long before the longest-living bristlecones. The longest-lived bristlecones are in the harshest location

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Why are they called bristlecones? Because their cones have these bristles on 'em! They also have purple cones, and are really sappy.

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Looking up at an ancient one. You can see that the trees more than a thousand years old often only have one strip of bark, which provides enough nutrients in this alkaline soil to allow it to reproduce, and survive.

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This bristlecone remnant has been here for thousands of years. Deep Springs valley, Nevada, in the distance (the white lakebed is Deep Springs). The college is to the left of it

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Not much can grow, much less thrive, in this harsh environment. Lichen, growing on the rocks at the base of a bristlecone outcrop.

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Who knows what this rock looked like a few thousand years back, when this tree first took root. Now, it hangs tenaciously to the bare rock face...

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Wind, ice, snow, sand, all work over the eons to sculpt the rock-hard wood of bristlecone pines, to form this natural abstract artwork.

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Scientists from the White Mountain Research Station often tag deadfall for research. Don't touch or move!

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Another ancient one - this specimen close to the visitor center.

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The GTV at the visitor center, ready to head home...

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Looking northwest, back toward Bishop (in the valley floor). Not a bad view, right?

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Looking southwest over Owens Valley. The Sierra Nevada, still with some snow in late July, preside over the horizon.

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Heading home, and stopped for one last look at 10,000 feet. The GTV still rides just fine at elevation. So long, from the Bristlecone Pine forest, White Mountains, California.

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The "picture frame" branches. Tourists like taking photos here - interesting branches, and it's right on the Methuselah trail.



Last edited by biffnix on Mon Jul 31, 2017 5:48 am; edited 1 time in total
Ossessionato
2006 GT200
Joined: 23 Feb 2016
Posts: 2869
Location: Moscow, Idaho
Mon Jul 31, 2017 5:24 am quote
Wow, we were just sucking wind at about 8,000 feet and admiring pines at that elevation that could be no more than a quarter of that age...so...yeah, wow!

Still, what continues to blow me away about your pics is that even tho I was born in Visalia and spent the first ten years of my life in the valley (Delano, Tulare, Tehachapi...) and probably made 100 trips to Yosemite, I swear I've never been to your little corner. Sort of a secret Shangrila.

Very cool!
Veni, Vidi, Posti
2007 LX150 2015 GTS 2013 BV 350
Joined: 13 Sep 2012
Posts: 9226
Location: Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Mon Jul 31, 2017 6:42 am quote
Wow. Great place. Thanks for showing us around!

Heat and altitude make for interesting hiking. More so when you have both.
Hooked
GTV-300ie Touring
Joined: 12 Aug 2016
Posts: 340
Location: Bishop, CA
Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:42 am quote
tdrake wrote:
Wow, we were just sucking wind at about 8,000 feet and admiring pines at that elevation that could be no more than a quarter of that age...so...yeah, wow!

Still, what continues to blow me away about your pics is that even tho I was born in Visalia and spent the first ten years of my life in the valley (Delano, Tulare, Tehachapi...) and probably made 100 trips to Yosemite, I swear I've never been to your little corner. Sort of a secret Shangrila.

Very cool!
Los Angeles draining the water from Owens Valley in the early 1900's is both a blessing and a bane. Yes, it transformed Owens Valley from a verdant valley into a dry, dusty place. Only roughly 2% of all land in Inyo County is available for private ownership, due to the land being public (BLM, Forest Service), or Paiute reservation, or owned by Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power). Because so little land can be developed, the towns in the valley simply never got the opportunity to grow or develop as the rest of California has. If the land could be developed, Bishop would look quite similar to, say, Fresno. It basically preserved the valley, and limited growth for over 100 years...

So, when locals complain about Los Angeles stealing all the water, they also enjoy the limited growth that sort of froze the valley in time. They definitely would NOT enjoy rampant development of Owens Valley, I suspect.

Cheers.
Hooked
GTV-300ie Touring
Joined: 12 Aug 2016
Posts: 340
Location: Bishop, CA
Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:53 am quote
fledermaus wrote:
Wow. Great place. Thanks for showing us around!

Heat and altitude make for interesting hiking. More so when you have both.
Thankfully, the higher in elevation you go, the lower the temperature. It was 90-plus degrees in Big Pine, on the valley floor, but at the visitor center, which is above 10,000 feet, it was 66-68 degrees all day... Still strenuous, though. Or maybe I'm just getting old - a more likely factor.
Ossessionato
2010 ThunderFly 190, 2008 250 GTS
Joined: 29 Apr 2011
Posts: 2730
Location: Springboro, OH
Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:56 am quote
Pardon my language, but that is cool as shit! I love seeing old growth trees and these look spectacular.

I loved the pic of the twisted tree, it just seems to tell a story going back hundreds of years. It's as if the tree has made several revolutions in it's lifetime.

Thanks for sharing your adventure.
Hooked
GTS300 SuperSport ABS
Joined: 10 Aug 2009
Posts: 217
Location: Toronto, ON
Mon Jul 31, 2017 4:44 pm quote
Stunning ride! Thanks for the pics.

How does the Vespa perform at altitude? Does the reduction in power hamper the ride?
Hooked
GTV-300ie Touring
Joined: 12 Aug 2016
Posts: 340
Location: Bishop, CA
Mon Jul 31, 2017 5:41 pm quote
mingo wrote:
Stunning ride! Thanks for the pics.

How does the Vespa perform at altitude? Does the reduction in power hamper the ride?
My pleasure. I enjoy sharing the rides from where I live, and love seeing everyone else's rides, too.

Bishop itself is at about 5,000 feet of elevation above sea level, so it seems to run just fine in my everyday commute. I work in Mammoth Lakes, which is at 7880 feet, so my commute already takes a pretty steep elevation change. The GTV does struggle on Sherwin grade, slowing to 55mph on the steepest parts of the grade. But, once it's on a flat portion, it goes right back up to cruise at 65mph no problem.

Going up to 10,000 feet elevation where the Bristlecone pine forest is, it's a very windy road, so I didn't have any real spots to open up the throttle, since the speed limit is 35mph most of the way, with lots of hairpin turns as you gain elevation. I didn't notice any performance issues, but I wasn't really going that fast, honestly. I was more concerned with the gravel, dirt, and leaves/pine needles on the road, because I didn't want to slide out on the turns.

So, my apologies, as I didn't notice a performance problem, but I was probably going too slow to notice in any case. But, it got me up there just fine, and back home safely. That's all I can ask, I suppose...
Enthusiast
2020 Vespa GTS Touring 300
Joined: 16 Feb 2020
Posts: 84
Location: Northern California
Mon Jul 06, 2020 9:58 pm quote
Re: Saturday above 10,000 feet - Ancient Bristlecone Pine Fo
biffnix wrote:
If you see Dave Hardin, he's a retired middle school teacher from Bishop, and *loves* talking to visitors about Bristlecone biology. You'll learn a LOT from the friendliest ranger in the Forest Service.
Ranger Dave recently passed away:

David A. Hardin (1947 2020)
https://www.sierrawave.net/david-a-hardin-1949-2020/
Hooked
GTV-300ie Touring
Joined: 12 Aug 2016
Posts: 340
Location: Bishop, CA
Tue Jul 07, 2020 4:56 am quote
Re: Saturday above 10,000 feet - Ancient Bristlecone Pine Fo
bosco12 wrote:
biffnix wrote:
If you see Dave Hardin, he's a retired middle school teacher from Bishop, and *loves* talking to visitors about Bristlecone biology. You'll learn a LOT from the friendliest ranger in the Forest Service.
Ranger Dave recently passed away:

David A. Hardin (1947 2020)
https://www.sierrawave.net/david-a-hardin-1949-2020/
Yes, sadly, we are well aware. We've known Dave for many years. After he retired from Bishop schools, he volunteered at Playhouse 395, a local theater group, and he and my daughter were in many productions together. We miss him terribly. He was just one of those guys who made your life better, because he was in it.

Cheers
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