Bristlecone Pines: The Patriarch Grove

The Methuselah Grove (see previous post) is a relatively easy drive up the narrow, twisty, but paved section of White Mountain Road from Highway 168 near Westgard Pass. Another 13 miles north along the gravel section of White Mountain Road brings you to the Patriarch Grove.

Patriarch Grove

The Patriarch Grove is one of the highest places you can drive to in California. The parking loop (center of this picture) is 11,340 feet above sea level. The road continues a bit farther toward the White Mountain trailhead, and reaches 11,900 feet on the horizon near the right side of this view. (But you can drive much higher in the Rockies, Andes, and Himalayas.)

Patriarch Grove

The Bristlecone Pines here are amazing—their shapes, their age, and their ability to thrive in this high, cold, arid, windy place with soil that would cause most woody plants to grow stunted or not at all. These trees are still growing and even reproducing themselves at ages of 3,000 to 4,000 years.

Patriarch Grove

Dolomite. Ground into a powder, it’s good for adding calcium and magnesium to your garden soil. But rocky, gravelly dolomitic soil, by itself and with hardly any organic matter, is not a nice place for most plants to be.

Patriarch Grove

A young cone on a branch of Bristlecone Pine. Many pines have a sharp, stiff, prickle or bristle on the tips of their cone scales. Some can really hurt you—but not these. The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) was originally included with the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine in the species Pinus aristata. “Arista” is Latin for “awn” and refers to the notably slender and brittle awn or bristle on the cone scales of the Bristlecone Pines.

  Patriarch Grove

Many of the larger, older Bristlecones have growing stems on just the sheltered side of the tree. The side more exposed to wind and sun is often scrubbed free of bark, revealing twisted and colorful old wood beneath.

Patriarch Grove

Tree line here is about 11,500 to 11,600 feet. The summit of Sheep Mountain (that distant  ridge in shadow at far left) is at 12,497 feet. But the Whites get higher still, north of here.

Patriarch Grove

Another 8 miles north, that highest peak on the left… that’s White Mountain Peak. At 14,252 feet, it’s the highest peak in the White Mountains, also the highest peak in Mono County, and the third highest peak in California after Mount Whitney and Mount Williamson.

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Tim Messick Photography • Graphics
Copyright © 2013 Tim Messick. All rights reserved.

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About Tim Messick

Photographer, cartographer, and botanist/naturalist. Home is in Davis, California. Home-away-from-home is the eastern Sierra Nevada. Compiling a flora of the Bodie Hills.
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6 Responses to Bristlecone Pines: The Patriarch Grove

  1. David Patterson says:

    Tim… this is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. It seems so different from most of the landscapes we normally see, and those trees are spectacular. Thanks for sharing.

  2. drawandshoot says:

    Tim, these landscapes are gorgeous. Almost surreal.

  3. dnikias says:

    This is one of my favorite places on the planet (and I’ve been a lot of places) – some very nice shots here and a good brief write up – these groves are part of Inyo National Forest – Inyo means dwelling ground of the Great Spirits and they are still very much present and active in this genuinely remarkable place – thanks for the posting!

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