Have you ever heard of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest? It’s one of my favorite “off-the-beaten-path” places to explore. Even the name is fun to say. Just try saying it over and over again. Sounds like a magical place, doesn’t it? I discovered it years ago as I was driving up to Yosemite on US Hwy 395, near the town of Big Pine.
I drove up a lonely, desolate road which is closed May through December because of storms. The place feels so remote, with its barren, golden moonscape. Even in July, I only encountered half a dozen hikers in the forest.
I spent a night at Grandview Campground, which was one of the cleanest, quietest campsites I’ve ever stayed at, especially for just a suggested $5 maintenance-donation fee. Most campsites these days are $25 and they’re very crowded. There is only a vault toilet but you don’t need reservations, the sites are roomy and there’s plenty of shade.
And you know what else is really cool about this place? The stars! This was the only time in my life when I actually slept outside my tent, just to see the night sky. It was like being enveloped in a velvet, diamond-studdded blanket. I guess that’s why the place is so popular with astronomy clubs. These people are serious about stargazing and bring out huge telescopes, some barely able to fit in the beds of their trucks. It’s pretty amazing.
Even if you don’t have time to stay overnight, there’s an easy enough nature walk you can do right from the visitor center that gives you a good sense of the place. They have a great display that chronicles major historical events alongside the rings of a tree, so you can see that the tree was alive when Jesus was born and man walked on the moon. Made my time on earth seem pretty miniscule.
The trees almost look like petrified wood, but are soft to the touch.
Over time, the branches and trunks become gnarled and take on beautiful forms.
At the time I only had one dog, Daisy, in case you’re wondering where the rest of the pack went.
These photos are from old, expired rolls of film I found from ten years ago. The colors were washed-out, but I think give the photos a kind of dreamy look that fits the landscape. I hope I’ll get to return one day soon and photograph this beautiful forest again.