In far eastern Nevada lies a national park that gets little attention. Wheeler peak towers above the landscape at 13,000 ft with just a hint of snow left over from winter. Thin green pine trees fill the surrounding landscape with foliage. As you travel up the road birch trees burst with fall colors brought on from the cool nights.
At the end of the scenic road sits the trail head for the Bristlecone Pines. At 10,000 feet we are way out of our element. Living at sea level comes with the benefits of having 21% oxygen in your air. Out here on the edge of the mountain it has dropped down to a mere 14.3%. Without taking the time to acclimate your lungs burn when you breath. Legs tremble from the low blood saturation of O2, and every step makes you feel more winded than the last. However the Bristlecone pines cannot be seen for the parking lot. You need to hike a couple miles to get there.
A quick selfie snap serves as proof that we made it. Next to us stand the remants of an old bristlecone. These slow growing pine trees need 200 years to make it to 4 feet tall. You read that right. The high altitude and dry weather makes them grow at a snails pace. Above my head to the right you will see a scraggly trunk with only a few green branches. This tree was dated to approximately 3,000 years. The oldest known in existance has been core sampled to date to 5,000 years. Wrap your noodle around those figures. This gives the tree the rights to be called the oldest living organisms in the world.
An example of the trees ability to survive is exemplified by it's death. This little baby tree only lived to be 1,500 years old, but it died 650 years ago. Yep, that dead trunk has stood for 650 years to defy it's living elders.
A wave goodbye is all Great Basin gets from us as we head out down the road. One of our furballs calls shotgun and gets a front row seat to the ride. It's hammer down as we careen towards Milford Utah in attempt to find home for the night. The clock has begun to tick since plans have been made to help a friend. My buddy Eric needs a shuttle ride at the Grand Canyon Next week and we've offered to help.
A gravel parking lot with fresh water is offered up by the local Lion's club for passing folks like ourselves. We take full advantage of the good fortune and call it a day.