Explore the Methuselah Grove Discovery Trail
Click and drag on the image below, and see also the accompanying text.
The Discovery Trail loops north around a rocky knoll through a grove of
bristlecone pines. The trail's name comes from the fact that Pine Alpha, the
first tree identified as being over 4,000 years old, was discovered here. The
trees in this grove are of all ages, from Christmas tree-sized youngsters less
than 100 years old to mature trees with broken tops that may be over 1,000
years in age. The oldest trees are ancient slabs of wood with only a single
living branch, and the trunks of long-dead trees lie undecayed on the
Life for an ancient bristlecone pine is a long, slow struggle (see A Tree's
Secret to Living Long). The oldest trees have managed to endure the cold, dry
climate and rocky soil, but they may fall prey to lightning, windstorms, or
insects. In its life span of thousands of years, a bristlecone may have to
adapt to soil erosion that leaves its original roots above ground level.
This panorama shows the northern side of the grove, at an altitude of just over
10,000 feet. A few trees are fully clothed in green-needled branches, but most
trees have several dead trunks and bare tops, testaments to their hard lives.
Two trees have fallen over, including the one closest to the camera, but they
live on, with healthy strips of bark and several living branches. The ground
between the trees is almost bare rock—angular blocks of dolomite, with ice
crystals in the crevices.