Thanks to my parents, I was fortunate enough to visit a grove of bristlecone pine trees (Pinus longaeva) on Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park a few years ago. Regardless of your belief system, this place is magical, and the magic is something you just feel. I was in the presence of some of the oldest living organisms on Earth, and in that quiet grove, I could sense the history in their growth rings, even if I had not witnessed those thousands of years myself. The tree pictured here did indeed sprout 1,230 years before the birth of Christ, according to scientists and according to that plaque that you can see in the bottom left corner of the photo. Here it is:
I touched this tree in the thin air, up there above 10,000 feet. I sat beneath one of its neighbors, and I felt grounded. I took pictures with my camera, but I also saved images in my mind that I plan never to forget. When I recall the stored images, I also recall the emotions that accompany them, and I remember feeling so young and clumsy and loud, surrounded by ancient, sturdy trees that hardly rustled in the wind. They were more like stone than wood, slowly shaped by the forces of wind and water. Those trees are still there today, preserving thousands of years of history in their twisted growth rings. The oldest bristlecone pine tree known to exist is over 5,000 years old. I wish every person on this planet had the will and the capacity to sit atop Wheeler Peak and feel the power of the bristlecone pine trees.
Nationally protected lands such as Great Basin National Park preserve the natural and human history that is essential to perpetuating awe, wonder, and humility in a nation that so desperately needs to remember how to be amazed, curious, and humble. Those of us who have access to these incredible places should be grateful, and we should never take their existence for granted. In fact, we have to fight for that existence. As you may have noticed, this is not a typical True Nature Filter post. In light of the recent threats posed to public lands by the current administration, national parks need allies, and they need those allies to speak out loudly. They need people to continue to find awe, wonder, and humility in the parks and to pass that on to others. Pass that on to children and to everyone who can vote, sign petitions, make phone calls, write letters, and march in protest.
Great Basin National Park bridges two states: Utah and Nevada. Water does not flow out of the basin – it remains trapped there, contributing to the only glacier in Nevada, replenishing high mountain lakes, and nourishing the plants and animals living there. The national park is home to Lehman Caves (a TNF post for another day), as well as stunning aspen groves and some of the best stargazing around. In fact, it is designated as an International Dark Sky Park. I could tell you so many amazing things about the park and about the bristlecone pine trees that live there, but I hope that you will choose to learn some of this on your own.
Join the movement for national parks that are resisting against the oppression they have already faced under the current administration. Stay vigilant and stand up for the research, worship, learning, and living made possible by these magical places, because all of that could be under threat. Learn more on the Alt National Park Service Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AltUSNationalParkService and join the movement here: https://www.altnps.org .
Here’s more information about the bristlecone pine tree: https://www.nps.gov/grba/planyourvisit/identifying-bristlecone-pines.htm