Bristlecone Pine Forest
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest - 26 miles east of Big Pine are the world's oldest living things, the bristlecone pines. Many of these amazing gnarled trees are 3,000 - 4,000 years old, (when Egypt was in full swing, these trees were little sprouts), living on the dry hillsides of the White Mountains. The bristlecone pines don't grow tall (they grow about 1 inch every one hundred years), but they survive for centuries in a very inhospitable environment.
Stop at the Schulman Grove Visitor Center for exhibits about the bristlecone pines, then take the 1 mile Discovery Trail loop. For a longer hike, the Methuselah Trail is a 4 1/2 mile loop.
To see the world's largest bristlecone pine, the Patriarch Tree, it's a 12 mile drive further to the Patriarch Grove. This tree, standing out on a lonely windswept mountainside, has a magical quality, as if an ancient wizard might live in the heart of the tree. It's well worth the longish drive to see the Patriarch Grove, but it's along a dirt road (not recommended in a rental car).
The road to the ancient bristlecone pine forest is open mid May to end of October (depending on weather).
Owens Valley Radio Observatory - Budding astronomers will want to visit this radio observatory, telescopes that collect radio waves and turn them into images of the far away galaxies. The big dishes look very science-fiction, sitting out on the mountain side. Public tours are on on the first Monday of the month (tour lasts about 1 + hours). Call 760.938.2114 for reservations.
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