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There I was, sitting in my trailer during a dust storm in Mina, Nevada surfing the internet.  And I read that someone had visited the ancient Bristlecone Pines in the White Mountains weeks ago.  What?  Could this be correct?  It was.  

I’ve always wanted to see the ancient Bristlecone Pine trees, ever since I heard about them.  They are the oldest known living plant on earth.  Some are older than 4,000 years old.  They live at 10,000 feet elevation where the snow doesn’t leave the roads until June usually.  When I left on this trip, I didn’t think there was any possibility that I could see them.  I was too early in the year for the roads to be open.  And then I heard it was possible to drive to the trees.  My travel plans got flipped, instead of going north, I headed south to Big Pine.

Driving east on Hwy 168 to see the pines. Photo credit Thoms G., Google Earth.

I was excited but cautious, trying to avoid a disappointment.  On my way to Big Pine, I asked the inspector at the California agriculture check point if she knew the road status.  She didn’t but pointed to the White Mountains to the east and they were covered with new snow.   She wasn’t optimistic.  After finding a camping site in Big Pine, I headed south for a bit of exploring.  My first stop was the historic Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery.

I asked the volunteer at the fish hatchery if she had any information about the road – she didn’t.  On I went and visited the Eastern California Museum and the Manzanar relocation center asking at both places if they knew the road status.  No one knew.  

The next morning I woke early.  I did my morning stuff and was ready to leave by 8:00 but logically I knew I should leave later in the day when it would be warmer.  Five minutes later I didn’t care about logic and was leaving.  Off I went and at the Hwy 168 junction at Big Pine the highway sign indicated the road was OPEN.  Once again I was excited but cautious trying to avoid disappointment.  Was the road open to the campground? To the visitor center?  To the Patriarch Grove?  The sign was vague. Up I drove Highway 168 and then to the forest service road turn off.  I continued driving up and up stopping now and then to soak in the amazing views.  

View of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

And then I was there, at the visitor center with the ancient Bristlecone Pines.  🙂

Because my old dog doesn’t go for walks, I decided to head onward to the Patriarch Grove.  That sounded like a better place to leave a dog in the truck while going on a walk with the trees.   I didn’t make to the grove, the road was blocked with snow three miles from the grove. But for about two hours I slowly drove the road, took pictures, and simply absorbed the reality – I was among the oldest known living plants.

Road to the Patriarch Grove.

And then I decide to venture back to Big Pine. It was a good thing that few people were up on the White Mountains that day. For those of you that have read my blog in the past, you know that I hate shelf roads. Coming down the mountain, the downhill road lane was next to a drop off. But… I had a clear view of any uphill traffic. Seeing none, I happily drove in the uphill lane on my way down.