Dolomite Hill of Bristlecone Snags

Dolomite Hill of Bristlecone Snags

full print size of 29.6x37.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2006   view detailed crop

geranium The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Inyo National Forest, Inyo County
early morning Saturday July 2, 2006, slide 06-Y-15
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 150mm Nikkor, Gitzo G1325 Mk2
Tango Drum scanned Fuji Provia 100F 4x5 film to 300mb RGB file
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 processed for accurate image fidelity
Lightjet5000 printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
signature top right

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest of Inyo National Forest is a remote botanical reserve of 46 square miles celebrating the Earth's longest living life form, the Bristlecone pine, pinus longaeva. The forest lies several miles in width and breath atop the White Mountains of California. The White Mountains are the northern section of what is named the White-Inyo Range a 110 mile long range with the Inyo Mountains, the part of the range south of Westgard Pass. The range is what geologists refer to as a fault block range where blocks of the Earth's crust are divided up by fractures, properly termed faults, each of which tend to move vertically with respect to each other. In this case, the block of the range is rising versus the block just west, which is sinking into what is named the Owens Valley. The White-Inyo Range is the westernmost range in a large region of similar narrow north to south trending mountain ranges and valleys in The West east of the Sierra Nevada into Nevada called the Great Basin that reaches far eastward to the Colorado Plateau country in Utah. It also is the highest range of the Great Basin with White Mountain Peak at 14,246 feet just a few miles north of the area of this image.

The ancient white dolomite rock is metamorphosized limestone, a calcium-magnesium-carbonate rock, from shallow seabed deposits in the Paleozoic Era between 350 and 440 million years in the past. A time when complex life first began to appear on Earth and the western shores of the early North America continent were off to the east in what is today the Great Basin. This is referred to as the Cambrian Explosion, a time when all invertebrate phyla of animals rapidly appeared on Earth. How fitting it is indeed, that atop ancient dolomite, the residues of bodies of ancient sea life as trilobites, that the Earth's most long-lived life form still grows. Some trees in the nearby Schulman Grove reach to near 5000 years of age. The bristlecone pine is a slow growing tree species, commonly adding a mere inch of diameter every century in its dry nutrient poor soils. It grows in the Whites at elevations between about 9,000 and 12,000 feet altitude, preferring south facing slopes with a dolomite substrate.

The wood is very dense and resinous that provides unusual resistance to attacks from bacteria, fungi, and insects. So resistant that the dead tree snags themselves often last in this harsh, dry, cold, environment for yet a few more thousands of years as flakes of snow, sand, and particulates slowly blast away the wood micro specs at a time.

A friend and I made plans for our first backpack into the White Mountains in order to visit a remote area I had explored many years before. Neither camping nor backpacking is allowed within the proper ancient forest boundaries so our destination was to the north outside that area. All the area north of the Barcroft Laboratory road is wilderness where bristlecones also occur in favorable locales east of the barren heights of the crest. Even within the ancient forest boundaries are rather vast areas, which few if any people have ever visited. Some of those areas can be viewed to the northeast from the Schulman Grove trail.

In this image one can see five live trees and five standing snags. The prominent snag at left has a common form where several successive piggyback trunks evolve as the earlier trunk blasted by years of weather finally succumbs leaving polished white to yellow hued wood while a thin green strip of living bark on the leeward side of the trunk continues to grow a new trunk until it too succumbs with yet another trunk on its leeward side continuing the process. In this image below the trees atop the dolomite stones and soil are various alpine cushion plants including cushion phlox, phlox condensata, with white flowers at foreground left, and rock senecio, senecio canus, with yellow flowers at foreground right. I exposed this frame about 15 minutes after sunrise after taking a couple images nearby. I moved into a position to emphasize the prominent snag while isolating the trees against the deep blue high elevation sky.

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   David Senesac

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