THE ANCIENT BRISTLECONE PINE FOREST

BRISTLECONE FOREST

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

I spent mid-August to mid-September at a writer’s residency offered by the good sisters at the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho, population 923. 

It was good to get away. But it also felt really, really good to be heading back to Southern California in my trusty Fiat 500. 

En route, down through Boise, then 250 miles of breathtaking desert vistas to Winnemucca, Nevada, then hundreds of more miles the next morning, I made my way to a place I’ve wanted to visit for many years: the Ancient Bristlecone Forest in the Eastern Sierras. 

Navigating there required several deserted back roads, the loss of all cell reception, and a 23-mile drive through the eastern portion of CA-168 W to White Mountain Road in what is technically Bishop, at which point there’s still 10-miles more of Inyo National Forest road to go, up, up, and up some more. 

I’d already driven close to six hours that day, so I was especially grateful to wheel into the parking lot of the Schulman Grove Visitor’s Center. (Edmund Schulman, Ph.D., 1908-1958, was a University of Arizona dendrochronologist with a background in astronomy who, entirely sensibly to my mind, related cosmic events to the science of tree-ring dating). 

At 10,000 feet the warmth of the sun was overlain with the faint chill of early fall and the fresh, dreamy scent of pine.

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