Great Basin Bristlecone Pines are incredible organisms. They are extremely long-lived and are the oldest living, single organisms that we know of. The oldest known bristlecone is roughly 5,000 years old.
In the Basin and Range region we have the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva), which reside in California, Nevada and Utah. The Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata) is located in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
Great Basin Bristlecones have dark green, short needles in clusters of five. The needles grow along the length of the branch, giving them a fairly unique look. The cones grow at the ends of the branches. The cones have a thin bristle on each cone scale--which is how they got the name bristlecones. The older bristlecones often have spikey dead tops, bare wood on limbs and trunks, distorted polished limbs and exposed roots.
Great Basin Bristlecones grow only in cold, dry windswept locations at high elevations. The oldest of the bristlecones tend to live in the harshest of conditions. The tough conditions produces wood that is hard, resin-filled and resistant to insects, disease and decay.
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine Slideshow:
I love traveling south in Nevada and seeing the change in landscape and vegetation. On of my favorites parts is when we get into Joshua Tree habitat—and join in on the dance party in the desert!
Last week we were lucky enough to get to road trip down south. We enjoyed the scenery and the Joshua trees along the way!
Last week we focused on one of our favorite desert mountains, but it’s such a favorite it warrants another post. Being so remote, we were very surprised to find a “harri mutil” (literally “stone boy” at the top. These rock cairns were built by Basque sheepherders usually to mark range boundaries but also for a variety of other reasons, including just to pass the time. I’m not sure exactly if this rock cairn was a harri mutil, but it sure seemed like it.
While the peak hike was fairly short, about 3 hours total, we have also hiked quite a bit around the base of Elephant Mountain, and once tried for the summit from the much steeper eastern slope, but turned back due to the steepness and the lateness of the day. We had also hiked out to Crowbar Spring that day.
On vacation this week and had the privilege to visit the Ancient Bristlecone National Forest. It is so humbling and invigorating to walk among them.
Elephant Mountain gets its name because it looks like the top of a charging elephant's head--see photo above. It's pretty obvious when looked at from this angle at Leonard Creek Ranch or from nearly anywhere on the Pine Forest Range. It is a distinctive part of the desert skyline along with Pinto Mountain.
Having seen and loved the view of this mountain over the years, we decided to hike up it in early spring 2017. Views of the Black Rock Desert, Black Rock Range, Jackson Range and Pine Forest Range were outstanding!
Elephant Mountain is roughly 5,931 ft in elevation and is located in the Black Rock Desert Wilderness Area. It is actually the highest point in the Black Rock Desert Wilderness Area.
Mountain, valley, mountain, valley! The very makeup of the Basin and Range region. It’s so beautiful!
Bald Mountain (9,549 ft.) the high point in the Pine Grove Hills and the high point of Lyon County, Nevada. It is in one of Nevada’s newest Wilderness Areas, the Wovoka Wilderness.
Hiking above the Truckee cliffs on the cliff edge of the Sierra looking at Verdi Peak with the corridor of I-80 between us.
The Tobin Range is located in north central Nevada and, as is typical in the Basin and Range Region, runs north/south. The range is roughly 32 miles long. The tallest peak is Mount Tobin at 9,754 feet. There is a Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in the range which is 13,107 acres in size.
The 1915 Pleasant Valley earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.8, produced large fault scarps along the western side of the range. The fault scarps are quite obvious and impressive, once you know what to look for, in some areas there was up to 20 feet of vertical displacement.
I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Tobin Range in 2015. It's a gorgeous range, well worth a visit.
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The Basin and Range Project
We love the Basin and Range region and work to promote appreciation and respect for the area. We encourage all users to learn about, play in and protect this amazing resource.
We currently focus primarily on issues in the Nevada region of the Basin and Range, but are looking to expand soon.