Eastern Sierras Part Five: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

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While in Bishop, CA we stayed at the Highlands RV Park, a perfectly nice park except that the site pads are narrow and close together, with trees strategically placed so as to make pulling into even many of the pull-thru’s a little dicey. We really liked Bishop, with special mention going to Schat’s Bakkery, Mountain Light Gallery and Wilson’s Eastside Sports store, all within a few blocks of each other on Main St/395.  Bishop is a great location from which to explore much of the most spectacular parts of the Eastern Sierras, including the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

We’ve been traveling south of 395 for about a month now, and at Bishop we’re at the northern end of the Owens Valley, bounded by the Sierras to the west (above) and the White Mountains to the east. To get to the Ancient Bristlecones you have to travel a bit further south to Big Pine, then go east into the White Mountains. Just east of Big Pine is the grand old Black Mountain (below) standing pretty much alone.  Most of the range of mountains to the east is sedimentary rock, while the Sierras are granite, so they have very different characters.

While Ms. Subaru toiled up the White Mountains for us we passed through several different habitats, ranging from almost bare scrub to a healthy pinyon/juniper forest. The pinyons are having a bumper crop of pine cones and nuts this year, and we saw several groups of people out harvesting. (What a sticky business that must be.)  That’s a pinyon loaded with cones in the picture below taken from the “Sierra Vista” overlook, with Bishop and the Sierras in the distance.

There’s a spanking new Visitors’ Center at the entry to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest to replace the one that burned down. Also note the cool metalwork trim on the sign below.