How old are the oldest living trees? Bristlecone Pines were growing for 300 years before the pyramids were being built in Egypt. Adversity promotes long life and these trees live where survival is the most difficult.
These multi-trunked trees, are gnarled and twisted by wind whipped sand and ice that scour the dead wood smooth and beautiful. Instead of rotting, the wood erodes like stone. For survival, trees need rain – but this area receives some of the lowest amounts per year. Also, trees need soil – but the area consists of quartzite boulders.
Since one section of the tree may die a couple thousand years before another part, capturing the oldest part of the tree in a core sample is very difficult. Sadly, before the area became a national park, a live bristlecone pine was cut down and sectioned to get an accurate reading of its growth rings.
At 4,900 years old, Prometheus became the oldest known tree. According to ancient Greek myths, Prometheus was an immortal who brought fire, symbolic of knowledge, to humans. This bristlecone pine was thus named, since it had given so much knowledge to humans through carbon dating and climate data.
Wheeler Peak Grove is an easy walk on a well-marked trail in the Great Basin National Park. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the campground and then pack some water, hiking poles and a camera for this unique experience. It’s well worth visiting an area that symbolizes western fortitude, with the rocky appearance of Mars.