Monday, September 1, 2014

Hiking with Kids: Wheeler Cirque Bristlecone Grove

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I've had bristlecones on my mind a lot this summer. One of my trips up to see these old, high-elevation trees was back in early July. There's a lovely bristlecone grove accessible via a 1.5-mile (one-way) hike in Great Basin National Park, along the aptly-named Bristlecone Trail. We decided it would be a great destination for six kids and four adults. But before we started, we had better stretch!

One of the keys to having kids enjoy the hike is to make it a game. Apparently balancing was a major part of the game, because as I looked back at the photos, I saw the kids were really enjoying it.

We had planned to eat lunch at the bristlecone grove, but based on the level of whininess (that's a word, right?), we adapted and changed our plans to eat lunch at Teresa Lake (0.7 miles from the trailhead, or about an hour away at our speed). Water is always appealing to kids, especially when we told them they could go swimming! They quickly figured out that it was very cold water for swimming, but that didn't stop them from hanging out at the edge.

Rested up and fed, we continued our hike to the bristlecones.

Meeting up with Ranger Carolyn provided a nice rest break and photo op.

The trail is stunning, with great views as you get closer and closer to the glacial moraine where the bristlecones live on the Prospect Mountain quartzite (most old bristlecone groves live on dolomite or limestone, so this grove is a bit different).

Heading up a switchback.

And then we were there! We saw cool bristlecones all around.

The kids weren't interested in the bristlecones, but instead the prize we had promised: doing their nails. Whatever it takes!

I left them to walk the short interpretive trail and visit some trees over 3,000 years old. One of the oldest trees in the world, Prometheus, at about 5,000 years old, was found near here, but many scientists think it was an outlier, as they haven't been able to find any others in the area over 4,000 years old. Nevertheless, living 3,000 years is still amazing. And once a tree dies, its wood can remain intact for thousands of years more.

The reason that bristlecones can live so long is that most of the tree dies after time. A narrow strip of bark supports just a small section of life on the tree. Meanwhile, wind and precipitation shape the remaining dead bark into fascinating forms.

Although the kids weren't interested in the interpretive trail, they still did think the bristlecones were pretty cool. They took time to touch the needles, which can remain on the tree up to an amazing 45 years.

After a big snack, it was time to head back. We had another motivator: ice cream at the Lehman Caves Cafe. But we had to move fast to make it in time.

Fortunately we got there about five minutes before closing and they were kind enough to smile and make something for all of us. That sure put smiles on our faces! What a great hike.


M.E. Masterson said...

The kids look like they had a great time!

Christian said...

Hiking with Kids: Wheeler Cirque Bristlecone Grove. As I've mentioned ...

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