Remembering Lunch With The Oldest Living Being On Earth

Remembering Lunch With The Oldest Living Being On Earth

Prometheus_Wheeler bristlecone pine

Next Of Kin

What is there to say about trees. They are special.

When I was in high school 50 years ago I climbed to the summit of Wheeler Peak on the Utah Nevada border. There near the top of the mountain at an elevation nearing ten thousand feet grew the oldest living things on Earth, the Bristlecone Pines.

The oldest of all those incredible Bristlecone Pines still lived there when I visited with it. Part of it was laid flat along the ground, no doubt to escape the howling winter winds. It made a perfect bench to sit upon and have lunch. The tree is said to have been at least 5000 years old. I can still see the tree today in my minds eye just as if I were there. It had real magic.

Prometheus_laying in state

Prometheus Laying In Sate At Park Service Visitor Center

A year after my lunch date a ” mad forest scientist” climbed the peak and murdered that tree just to take a slice of its trunk back to his laboratory to study. I expect there is a special place in a wood fired hell waiting for that guy. There is not a time in all these 50 years that I have recalled this story that tears have not come to my eyes. While it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all the pain of such a loss remains always.

It is better to plant than to cut trees down. I know I have done lots of the former and sadly some of the latter. I live in a wood house and enjoy the wonderful benefits of wood. It’s not so bad that we harvest trees, so long as we grow even more.

Me replanting trees on a slash burned British Columbia landscape 1973

Me with hodad in and hand treebags replanting and restoring a forest on a British Columbia “clear-cut slash burned” spring 1973

In the early 1970’s I was living a back to the land life in the wilds of British Columbia. Treeplanting was one of the few jobs that one could find and I gravitated into that field. Before long I discovered that my background in plant ecology and sense of adventure could be combined by creating my own treeplanting company. It was called Coast Range as I loved the coast range of British Columbia and an early treeplanting contract was there.

After not so long on the slopes planting I ended up working as a consulting ecologist on all manner of land restoration projects. Trees were not the only plants needing a helping hand. Creeping red fescue and birdsfoot trefoil became other favourites of mine… but that’s another story.

While the oldest of the Wheeler Peak Bristlecone Pines was cut down, there are many of its kin still standing. It’s a full day to hike up and down to have lunch with them but it’s well worth it. At the high elevation where they live your shortness of breath and tree companions will prove you have come close to heaven.

Take your children or grandchildren for lunch with the oldest trees on earth. As you sit quietly you might just hear some of the stories they have to tell. Your children will remember the moment forever, the trees will remember for even longer! Here’s a link to Great Basin National Park.


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