Growing between 10,000 & 11,000 ft. elevation on rocky dolomite (limestone) slopes that resemble the surface of the moon, these ancient patriarchs cling to life in this arid, hostile climate. Off to the west, the Sierra mountains squeeze most of the moisture from clouds coming in off of the Pacific and little rain is left to fall after they cross the valley and reach this range to the east, close to Nevada. Not much else can grow here, giving the Bristlecones, which have adapted to the climate and soil, the head start they need to survive.
Many of these trees are 2000-3000 yrs. old, calculated by both ring-counting and carbon dating - and the oldest tree, nicknamed "Methuselah", is determined to be 4,750 years old; it's exact location is kept secret, to ensure protection from vandals. The trees that live in the "better" locations grow fatter and taller and thus have shorter lives. The stunted ones living alone in the harshest conditions are well adapted and live the longest. Their wood is dense and impervious to disease, insects and rot and they only need a tiny amount of bark to live.. in fact letting parts of the tree die off is part of their survival strategy.
My wife and I spent an afternoon wandering among and photographing these beauties last year. Several trails wind through this grove (which is the "lower" one at 10K ft.) and for the whole afternoon while hiking, we didn't see another person.. just these ancient sentinels standing quietly as they have for centuries, facing the crest of the Sierras off to the west.
This is my first time to participate in Monochrome Monday... you can see an index of other participants by clicking on the link. You can also click on the smaller, first image to get a more detailed view.
"The Sentinels" - Eastern Sierra