Friday, August 26, 2011

Ancient Bristlecone Forest (Aug 25, 2011)

Today's activities were planned to be a simple day of driving and exploring and giving my feet a break. But, I ended up with a bit of hiking which resulted in breakthrough in preparation for high altitude hiking. Yippee! I hinted in yesterday's post that for the last 4 days of hiking, I've been having a few issues. Basically, whenever I had to go uphill or just pushed myself, I started getting elevated heart rates and felt like passing out! Not good. In fact, I've been silently panicking. I've had a second issue that is commonplace for me as well: at altitude, my sinuses have become congested and I've had difficulty breathing through my nose resulting in poor sleep. I've always had bad sinuses and suffer allergies, so it's something I just live with. But, at these altitudes, losing any amount of breathing ability hurts. Since I had a really bad night's sleep the night before, yesterday I stopped at a dug store and got some nasal spray. I slept like a rock last night. And this morning after using it I really felt great. I ended up doing a 4 mile hike today at 10,000 ft and I really pushed myself. I was doing 3 mph for a majority of the hike and I was able to push through the ascents without any of the previous problems. Letting my nose breathe was critical and I finally feel I can hike the tall mountains... as long as bring some nasal spray along with me. And getting a good night's sleep didn't hurt either.

Now, back to the fun stuff! I was considering that I would explore White Mountain and the Ancient Bristlecone Forests today. I mentioned this to the bartender, who has hiked everywhere around here, and she said I just had to go as it was amazing, so that made up my mind. I didn't think hiking would be involved, so I didn't really bring any hiking gear, but luckily at the last moment I changed out my jeans for a pair of shorts. I drove straight to the Ancient Bristlecone Forest and realized that to see these trees, I had to hike 4 miles at 10,000 ft in a desert. But it actually turned out to be a really enjoyable hike. It was a truly amazing experience to be walking among the oldest living organism on the planet. Many of these trees are 3,000 to 4,000 years old. The oldest living thing on Earth is on this trail and is believed to be 4,600 years old! Simply amazing. Sadly, they won't tell you which tree is the oldest so that it can be protected from damage and I don't blame them. There's just a sign that says it's nearby and you get to guess which one it is. Also amazing were the saplings. I'd see a bristlecone sapling that looked like any ordinary pine that sprouted this spring, but the sign/guidebook noted that the sapling was 50 years old! Wow...

After walking through the bristlecones I still had some time, so I decided to drive as close to the top of White Mountain as I could. As I've been planning a future hike to the Summit, I was aware that road is gated about 7 miles or so from the Summit, so I figured I could at least drive to the trail head and get some nice photos. The rest if the road was gravel and it was difficult driving my sedan much over 12 mph and I was a bit paranoid about cutting a tire on the rocks or banging the suspension too much. As you climb the mountain you get some stunning views of the Sierra Crest. You can nearly see the entire Sierra Crest from south of Mt Whitney all the way to Tahoe. I could also see the mountains ranges surrounding both sides of Death Valley, though the angles were wrong to see the valley floor itself. The distances I could see were stunning. I'm surprised I couldn't see Las Vegas in the distance :)

The Palisades as seen from White Mountain.

Section of the Sierras.

Lunar like surface near the top of White Mountain.

All photos are on Smugmug.

GPS track is on EveryTrail.

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