A Bristlecone Pine steels itself against the harsh, dry winds of the White Mountains
I recently took some time to explore the White Mountains, which stretch across the California-Nevada border, north of Death Valley and east of the Sierra Nevadas. The range’s cold and dry climate and fierce winds have helped shape a unique and ancient organism: the Bristlecone Pine, which many believe is the oldest living organism on Earth. The trees are gnarled and slanted, eternally bent against the wind, and if you look at them just so they almost appear to be wise, grizzled men, frozen in time. While Bristlecone Pines are found throughout the west, the oldest known Bristlecone Pine, a tree named Methuselah, lives on the White Mountains and is thought to be around 4,900 years old. The U.S. Forest Service keeps the location of Methuselah secret, so I couldn’t get a shot of it, but I did get a shot of a Bristlecone Pine at night with the Milky Way Galaxy shining behind it, which was one of my main goals of the trip. Read on to take a look at that shot and some of the others I took during my time in the mountains.
It was a beautiful day when I drove up the mountains; the Bristlecone Pine Forest sits at around 10,000 feet, and when I reached that elevation a bag of chips in the back of my truck popped, freaking me out but providing me with an excuse to enjoy a nice snack.
The contrasting blues, greens, and browns of the Bristlecone Pine Forest
The Bristlecone Pine is thought to be the oldest living organism on earth that isn’t part of a clonal colony.
I wandered around the mountains for quite some time, right, exploring all the different terrains; left, the Bristlecone Pine’s wood is extremely durable, which is part of the reason why the tree can remain alive for so long.
Driving up the White Mountains, right, which reach as high as 14,000 feet; left, a close-up view of a Bristlecone pine, whose bark is highly resinous.
This is the shot that I traveled to the White Mountains for–the Milky Way Galaxy rising above a Bristlecone Pine. Night photography is a passion of mine, but it definitely takes patience; there can be a lot of downtime because a single shot can take hours. One this particular night, the temperature slipped into the 30s, and the wind cut through my jacket, which is why I found myself doing jumping jacks and shadow boxing to stay warm.
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