Hiking the White Mountains, Patriarch Grove

Last week, taking advantage of the waning moon not rising early in the evening, I traveled to the Patriarch Grove of the Bristlecone Pine Forest. The road twists and turns as it wends its way upward to nearly 12,000′ elevation. After passing the Bristlecone Pine Forest ranger station, it is another 9 miles on washboard rough road. This time of year, there are wildflowers and cactus blooming all the way up the mountain.

Bristlecone Pine along the road.
Bristlecone Pine along the road.

You cannot tell from this photo, but the hill is very steep here, my feet could barely gain a toehold to take the photo of the tree. The roots are gripping the soil where soil has eroded; Bristlecone Pine roots usually only extend 1′ into the ground.

Cactus along the road.
Cactus along the road.
Davidson's Penstemon.
Davidson’s Penstemon.
Looking toward the Sierras.
Looking toward the barely snow-topped Sierras.
Recent rains have greened the mountainsides.
Recent rains have greened the mountainsides.
The road is very rough and no guard rails all the way up.
The road is very rough and no guard rails all the way up.
One of four photographers who arrived shortly after I did.
One of four photographers who arrived on the mountain shortly after I did.

When the photographers pulled into the lot, they split up and went four different directions. I thought it was strange, but I was off doing my own thing at that point. Later, they congregated in the parking area while I was getting more clothes (two jackets, fuzzy long pants, knit hat – I was sweating 1/2 hour before that). When they started pulling equipment from their trucks, I recognized a set-up I had seen in Washington state last spring. The camera is attached to a what constitutes a tripod with one extremely long leg with a track that moves the attached camera at intervals while it is snapping photos at set times. I asked them if I could find some of their work on the internet and WOW, have they done some beautiful stuff. Look up DreamCore on FaceBook, or look at their website: Timescapes, and you HAVE to click on this link for their Vimeo video. I had no idea I was talking to such talented guys! They had originally split up so they could find the right scene to set up their equipment – they then set it to run automatically from 1 a.m. through 4 a.m. to catch the waning moon rising beside the Milky Way.

Still hot while the sun was shining.
Still hot while the sun was shining. This is all one tree, probably near 4,000 (or more) years old.
Cold now!
Cold now – as soon as the sun goes down! Using my nifty new remote control shutter to snap photos. No more having to set the delayed timer and running to get in the pic. 😉 Note the white dolomitic rock, the white reflects the sun keeping what soil there is cooler and from drying too quickly – only 12-13″ of rain/snow fall here per year. The whole mountain top consists of this limestone rock where only the Bristlecone Pines thrive in the somewhat cooler soil. Further down the elevation are darker sandstone and granite soils where mainly sagebrush grows (the green mountain photos earlier).
Looking across the ridges into Nevada.
Looking across the ridges into Nevada, shadowed by the mountain to the west.
My first light painting.
My first light painting.
The Milky Way - I'll have to try again soon - not the quality I want, but not too bad for a first try.
The Milky Way – I’ll have to try again soon – not the quality I want, but not too bad for a first try.

Thanks for traveling along with me.


7 Replies to “Hiking the White Mountains, Patriarch Grove”

  1. WOW! WOW! WOW! Your light painting of the Bristlecone Pine tree is awesome! I love it! Speaking of awe, I am in awe of a tree that is 4000 years old! I’ve always wanted to see those pines and you’ve done a great job of showing them. Now we have to decide, do we want to face that washboard road to see them ourselves?


    1. The first grove (Schulman Grove) that you come to (where the ranger station is) is all paved road. The rough road starts just past that entrance. So you wouldn’t have to hit the bumps to see the Bristlecones. Would love to see you!


  2. Wow Barb, I’m just astounded by your photos and have thoroughly enjoyed following you through your past 2 hikes (Patriarch Grove & Paiute Pass – all with one cup of coffee!). I’m feeling very inspired, even if lame. I’ve been plagued since last fall with Plantars Fascitis in one heel, that my PT & dr. tell me I must wait to let it heal…putting on the brakes for running/ walking as I had been doing at that point. So, of course that threw an obstacle just high enough to slow my momentum…and now I’m battling a “bulge” again and feeling achy – less “fit” (shall we say?) for most of my work. Out of desperation to get things moving, and after having tried the slow way of waiting for a heel to heal, I drove out to Rockville the other day to a “Good Feet Store” and bought a couple sets of their arch supports, that are supposed to allow the heel to heal – and whatever else ails you as a result. With no health insurance now (thank you, Prez) I decided this was a less expensive avenue to try…so I tried it. 2 days later, I’ve woken with no heel pain for the first time in months. Sitting down to your hikes with coffee has been just the “motivational video” I needed. I’m praying that this is a good “fix” and won’t cause other problems and that I can gradually work up to walking/running some distances again very soon…and leave the bulge behind. I sure wish I could follow along with you for real. But for now I’ll settle for your guided tours via photographs. I bring the kids in to show them and read the explanations. And your light painting, and Milky Way shots! -wow…I’m impressed. I think they are perfect. And I’m, meanwhile, saying to the kids, “Isn’t that beautiful?! and just think….Aunt Barb was *there looking at it!” *I love the picture in Patriarch Grove hike (“*There are steps going higher up the trail near the evergreen in the center of the photo.”) *where the snow line meets the evergreens and the backdrop is blue sky and white clouds….beautiful. I love to see the evergreens against a bright blue sky. So beautiful.

    I’m thinking, though, that I should not make so much fuss about this scenery out in CA where Aunt Barb gets to take pictures and travel around….lest there be a bit of their “runaround Sue” Mommom nestled latent in any one of them and they become so inspired as to follow you out to hike the Sierras. No, No No…Alabama and NC are far enough for me. Everyone else must stay in this neck o the woods. That’s how it works, right?

    Barry and I are taking off this afternoon to enjoy an overnight in Chestertown at a B&B for my birthday. We like to just ride around (as opposed to hiking – boy do I feel lame) without interruption and check out the Eastern shore sites and try to slow down for a few hours. But maybe we’ll find a hike there too.

    Oh – the graduation party turned out fine – though I had twice as much food as I needed (thanks to boys not giving me a head count). I was able to enjoy my family in the backyard and everyone was well-fed – so what more can you ask for, right?

    Better let you get on hiking (or posting…whichever). Love you muchly, Wendy P.S. Included a picture taken last weekend….Shane & Brandon went salt-water fishing off the coast of Panama, FL with Dad’s brother, Steve and some of his friends & sons. Brandon caught a 6′ shark! They had a really good time, Shane said. PSS: Here is a link to the pics we took at Em’s wedding (if I haven’t already sent it to you). Let me know if you can’t view them: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A65oqs3q70TK7 (thanks for setting the camera properly…looks like you picked the right one – the pics turned out pretty good)


    1. First, the wedding photos are absolutely beautiful, good job! I don’t do nearly as well with people. I especially love the one of Lily Gail and Mary Esther, such beauties! Well and Kerry and Randy and Jude, and Rachel and Nora and you and Mary Beth – OK stop, I love them all. I don’t see a link to the fishing pic you alluded to though.
      Second, you did the right thing with your heels. I had the same thing for a while and when I got the right insoles, they cleared up and I haven’t been bothered since then. I do try to keep good shoes on my feet though.
      Good luck keeping the kids nearby, who knew all three of mine would go so far away from home base? Jimmy agreed with me that Sue would have been right along with me in my travels. She’d like this town – no big box stores (except K-Mart), so lots of little nooks and crannies to explore via her shopping gene (which thankfully I don’t have). Enjoy your birthday – Happy, Happy, love love Chestertown. I saw a man paddling his board across the Chester River there one evening with the sun setting behind, beautiful. He was a professor at Washington College and he posted the pics on his blog.
      Love you, A Barb!


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