I'd thrown together this trip up to Mono Lake kind of at the last minute, my sense of urgency increased by Mono Lake's inclusion on California's slated state parks closures, and their canoe trips ceasing after Labor Day. So I didn't have as much time as I normally do to plot out all of my adventures.
In fact, I'd forgotten entirely that I wanted to go to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, an hour and a half detour off Route 395 not counting time spent there, until I passed its sign while going 80 mph down the highway. I slowed at first, swerved between left and right lanes a couple of times, and then resolved to turn around and check it out.
This is an area (similar to the Great Basin National Park in Nevada) that was once submerged under a prehistoric sea, where now groves of ancient trees 4000+ years old still flourish.
Of course, it's startling to discover that it's not the biggest trees - redwoods, sequoias, etc. - that are the oldest. These trees are stubby and gnarly, roots exposed from soil erosion.
But they still live.
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