It was nice to wake up in the morning, look outside and breath in June Lake. It was worth the drive just for this.
We drove to June Mountain right when they opened, but didn't even get out of the car. There was just not enough snow, and the quality of snow was poor. From June we drove to Mammoth but one again decided it was not worth it.
It is a good thing we had a plan B.
We knew it was the perfect opportunity to explore the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.
The sign says 24 miles to the forest, but at mile 21 there is a locked gate. From there you have to get out and walk to Schulman Grove, where some of the oldest bristlecone pines are located. To see the most ancient ones in Patriarch Grove it is 12 miles further. During summer and fall you can drive on a dirt road to get to Patriarch Grove, but walking this distance (with a late start) was not going to happen for us.
We now know that this is a not a quick stopover from the 395. Next time we come it will be for the entire day, not just a few hours.
The drive on the 168 is gorgeous.
A small portion of the drive is a single lane road.
We are very glad to have our first exposure to the area when crowds were low. We saw maybe five people the entire time we were there. Winter is the time to come.
Bristlecone pines are the oldest trees on Earth, some are over 4,700 years old.
The roots of the bristlecone pine grow close to the surface so they can capture scant moisture before it evaporates. The roots become exposed because the trees are so old, and the soil erodes at the rate of one foot per thousand years.
The slow growth of the bristlecone pine produces very dense wood that is resistant to disease and insect penetration. The slow growth also means that the trees do not grow very tall.
The light colored rock is dolomite. Bristlecone pines are common in this type of soil because the rock is alkaline and most plants cannot survive in this pH. The lack of competition with other species increases their population.