October 18, 2008

Bristlecone Surprise

Steve had read that there are bristlecone pines in the west Tavaputs Plateau area, so today we explored a likely spot. We rode up a canyon to some ridges that are exposed, dry, and moderately rocky. The trail going up was clear and smooth enough for cantering much of the distance. By the time we reached the top of the canyon, we had traveled 4 miles and 1700 feet in a little over 30 minutes. Mischief hit 16.9 mph on the way up, according to my GPS! The horses were a bit winded with pulses at 150 when we got off up top, 120 after 5 minutes, and 90 after ten minutes. A horse in great condition for the workout should be no more than 70 after 10 minutes. We need to do more uphill canters to improve on that.
Here’s where we took a breather. Between the two horses, you can see the ridge we were aiming for.
Before we even reached the ridge, we began seeing limber pine:

and then another evergreen that we thought was bristlecone. When we found an actual cone, we saw the expected bristles and knew we'd guessed right.
Then, on top of another ridge, at over 9000 feet, we came upon a small forest of bristlecone pines.
Many of them were large trees, perhaps 2 feet in trunk diameter. The oldest known living trees are bristlecone pines. Some in Inyo National Forest, California, have lived as long as 4600 years, and they grow in white, powdery limestone substrate soils. No way to know how old the ones we saw were, but they’re very slow growing in the dry, inhospitable areas they inhabit, so these had surely been around for many centuries.
Here is a very old one with lots of character:

The views from the ridge were pretty nice, too.
Our ride overall was 13.5 miles, 3400 feetelevation gain and loss, in 3.5 hours moving time, an excellent workout for the boys.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea Bristlecone Pines lived so long, that is awesome that you guys got to see some. The picture of the old one with character is cool.



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