Friday, February 9, 2024

A Tour of Great Basin National Park's Bristlecone Pine Groves: Part 7 - Baker Lake Grove

See Part 1 (Overview)Part 2 (Wheeler Cirque)Part 3 (Mt. Washington)Part 4 (Magic Grove)Part 5 (Eagle Peak) and Part 6 (Snake Divide) of the Tour of Great Basin National Park's Bristlecone Pine Groves.

Today we're going to finish this series with a long-forgotten grove of Bristlecone Pines, very close to Baker Lake. If you look at the photo above, you see lots of trees. These aren't bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva). They are Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmanii), another tree species adapted to life at high elevations and in harsh climates. 

I had read that there was a bristlecone pine grove near Baker Lake, but was always doing other things at the lake or was in a hurry, so I didn't have time to look. Until 2023. That's when I joined some researchers for an overnight at the lake, which meant I had some time to explore.

First off, where is Baker Lake? On the map below, it's to the south of Wheeler Peak and to the west of Eagle 10842.

If you head to the northeast of the lake, you go up on to the moraine. You can turn around and see those awesome cliffs above Baker Lake (although the lake itself is obscured). 

And then you start seeing that the trees are different than the Engelman spruce. They're more twisted, have needles in clumps of five, and there's a lot of dead wood on a tree. Great evidence that we're seeing bristlecone pine!

I started wandering around and found some old tags on the trees. They were part of a study in the 1960s. I couldn't find final data on them, so contacted the Tree Ring Lab at the University of Arizona. They're in the process of digitizing their records and are keeping an eye out for more info on these trees. 

Some of them are so amazingly beautiful!

I appreciated that the tags had been put on the dead part of the tree so as not to hurt it. Even hundreds of years after the tree has died, the wood is still looking good. The extremely dense wood of bristlecone pines helps it to persist so long.

Some of the trees looked more alive than others.

Some of the old wood is stained, making for interesting contrasts.

I noticed how the tree base and boulders intersected for this tree.

There are even rocks nestled into the wood!

This gnarled, twisting tree is a stunner.

I kept walking around it, looking at it from all the angles.

Wow, I am definitely going to have to revisit this tree again, it is seriously amazing.

I found a nest in a split in one pine.

I didn't get to see all the bristlecone pines, but just seeing some of them was really cool.

I'm hoping to go back and spend a little more time. 

After all, Baker Lake is quite a beautiful spot.

Horses are allowed on the Baker Lake trail, and these horses were brought up by the Nevada Backcountry Horsemen to help the researchers transport their gear.

What a couple days, beautiful lake, ancient bristlecone pines, horses, and friends. 

This concludes the series on Bristlecone Pine Groves in Great Basin National Park. I hope you've enjoyed getting to know these groves a little better.

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