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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tim Messick Photography • Graphics
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