Road trips are about the now, living in the moment and not giving thought to the end, or at least that’s how a good one should unfold. So with that in mind let’s fill that tank up again and continue on our journey because we can’t rest until we know the answer. What’s the question you ask?
A short drive southeast and we find ourselves 10,000 feet up in the White Mountains of California where the oldest living trees still breathe. Here we will find a grove of bristlecone pines that have been named justly Methuselah Walk. The oldest of the bunch is over 4600 years old and is indeed the oldest living tree in the world.
Whoa! Wait a second. How do they know it’s that old if it’s still alive don’t they have to count rings or something? Well apparently in the mid 50′s they used a Swedish tree-borer that was three feet long and as thick as a pencil and they took radial cores from the center of the tree and counted the rings under a microscope.
One of the more interesting parts of the discovery was that they could find no link between the size of the tree and the age, instead the longevity of the trees seemed to be linked to stress. The bristlecone pines that had the most stressful climate imaginable (buried in snow or wind-blasted by ice crystals or nothing to drink) were actually the oldest. The stress actually slowed the tree’s clock to the absolute minimum necessary for life.
It’s been said that the bristlecone trees live in the twilight between life and death. The main trunk may have died thousands of years before the last of its branches. What’s most intriguing is that they have kept the oldest of the bunch the “Old man” specific location secret to protect him.
The elevation on this stop adds some fun to the adventure at 10,000 ft you breathe a little harder especially for us low landers your heart has to work a little harder to push that blood around and I think that being around these living creatures that have been in some sense dying for two millenniums or more but still possess a narrow strip of bark with growing tissue beneath it a good way to find perspective . True it will die but today it lives and we have sat below its branches and sat our weary backs against its trunk and breathed deep the same air and for a moment we too will rest.