Explore the Methuselah Grove Methuselah Grove
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A longer trail heads east from the Schulman visitor center, making a four-mile
loop through the Methuselah Grove, where the dendrochronologist Edmund Schulman
established the age of several extremely old trees back in the 1950s. The
oldest known is the Methuselah Tree, over 4,600 years and still growing. U.S.
Forest Service policy is to protect the anonymity of the individual tree as a
safeguard against thoughtless actions or outright vandalism. There is no sign
for the Methuselah Tree, and the trail guide identifies only the general
vicinity where several of the oldest trees were found.
Many of these ancient trees are more dead than alive, showing broad spans of
exposed heartwood and dead tops. Such trees may only have one thin ribbon of
living bark, usually on the downwind side, that shelters a lifeline of cambium
connecting the roots to a single living branch. Such a slab-like tree may have
been growing downwind for thousands of years, and the original center of the
tree may be off to one side or eroded away altogether. Some trees show fire
scars from lightning strikes, and there are many dead trees.
But this grove of ancient trees shows much vitality. There are trees of all
ages, and ripe pine cones litter the ground (even Methuselah still produces
cones). As one walks the rocky trail, one encounters bushy youngsters only knee
high, vigorous mature trees with multiple trunks, old trees with dead tops and
exposed heartwood, and ancient trees of great character. Flying snow crystals
have etched and polished trunks and roots that have been exposed to the winter
wind. Tree trunks and unidentifiable slabs of wood lie on the ground, perhaps
thousands of years older than the oldest living wood.