Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Quick Trip to the Magic Grove near Mount Washington

 We had some visiting ecologists who were interested in setting up a limber and bristlecone pine monitoring program in Great Basin National Park. Since I do a lot of the high elevation botany/ecology, I went with them on a recon trip to one of the potential sites, up in the Mt. Washington area. I love going up the west side of the park, it is always so remote and beautiful. I took all these photos with my phone.

Jules joined us and brought along the telemetry gear to try and hear the collared bighorn ewe. We didn't hear it from down in Spring Valley, but we did hear it later in the day.

The traditional first stop up the road is the Wheeler Mine, where water comes out of the old mine and we can still see some of the mining structures. I'm not quite sure what this structure was used for.

Then we drove up the tight switchbacks up to near the top of Mt. Washington. We hiked the last 150 meters into the clouds.

Then we went down the other side to the northeast to check out a grove of bristlecones that has been dubbed the Magic Grove. The name isn't on any map, but it's stuck locally.

The moving clouds lent a very different air (double pun intended!) to the grove.

Wildflowers were scarce, but we could see there remains, like this Silene acaulis. In the summer it has brilliant pink flowers.

I found this four-trunked tree interesting.

Recognize this tree? It's on the Great Basin National Park quarter. It's a very cool looking tree from every angle.

The clouds were moving so fast. Thunderstorms were predicted for later in the day, so we knew we couldn't stay too long.

One of the cool things about bristlecones (and there are a lot of cool things!) is that often times the tree roots are above ground. These roots are so old that the ground has eroded out from around them, leaving the roots in air. This is an example where the biology can be used to help date the geology.

The bristlecones had some cones on them, so the life cycle continues. Those bottlebrush needles can live for 40 years!

On the way back down, the clouds lifted enough that we could see the marvelous patch of aspen on the other side of the canyon. A wildfire in 2000 burned part of Lincoln Canyon, making some great bighorn sheep habitat and regenerating a lot of aspen.
 It was a quick trip up and down the mountain, but lots of fun with good conversation about forest ecology and field work. The clouds made everything look so different. The Mt. Washington road requires high clearance  and four wheel drive and is one of the toughest roads around. The super tight switchbacks require three-point turns for longer vehicles.

1 comment:

iamtjc said...

Been a fan for years.

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