An Enchanted Forest in California? Welcome to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Elle Silver

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is an enchanted forest in California, but maybe not in the way you expect.

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Photo by Ducilla1.

Usually when we think of enchanted forests we think of heavily wooded forests fit with gothic castles and fairies. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is full of pine trees, but these aren't the typical Christmas-tree pines we might expect to find in the typical enchanted forest.

Bristlecone pines don't even have leaves. There's no castle located in this particular forest either. And yet, when I visited the Ancient Bristlecone Forest just a couple of months ago, I did feel like it was bewitched.

Here's why:

What is a bristlecone pine tree?

But first, I should explain what a bristlecone pine tree is. These are the oldest trees in the world. The trees in this particular forest, which is located in the White Mountains in Inyo County in eastern California, have existed there for over 4000 years.

The oldest tree in this particular bristlecone pine forest has been named the "Methuselah." It's 4,852 years old and is considered to be the world's oldest known living organism.

All the bristlecone pines in this forest have gnarled branches. They're famous for their resiliency. How else have they stayed alive for so long? They are able to grow at high altitudes and can tolerate harsh weather and bad soil.

According to AskNature.org, bristlecone pines survive conditions with little rainfall, in soil with very few nutrients "by shutting down all non-essential processes and focusing energy on long-term survival rather than growth."

In other words, these trees simply hang on, looking dead, though they're very much alive.

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Photo by Janine Sprout.

What makes these trees look so striking is that they have shallow roots, always with a couple large branching roots bumping up out of the soil, which provide support for the trunk. The huge roots keep these giant, gnarled trees from toppling over. Some trees literally grow out of on the side of the mountain.

Talk about resiliency! It's almost like these trees don't need soil at all, and they defy gravity, thanks to the strength of their roots.

Why did I believe this forest was enchanted?

Back to why I described this forest as an enchanted one. Simple: it looks otherworldly.

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Photo by ALAN SCHMIERER

Imagine walking along a trail high up in the mountains, surrounded by giant, grotesque trees. It's perfectly silent all around you but for the soft rustling of the breeze through these trees' bizarre,
twisted branches.

But in the silence, you wonder if it isn't a little too quiet. The trees seem dead but in knowing they're alive, you feel the eerie sense the trees are possessed. The branches look like at any moment they could start moving. I would not want to be grabbed by one of those thick branches. I don't think I'd be able to get away.

No, I wasn't enjoying an edible during my hike through the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. It's just the trees are so weird, I couldn't help but be affected by them. The bristlecone pines didn't appear to be from this planet. They seemed make-believe, almost Suessical in a way.

Yup, enchanted.

You should visit this forest, too.

But deep thoughts aside, I really recommend you visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in eastern California. Whether you'll also thinks this forest is enchanted is up to you. This was my reaction and maybe you'll have a different one.

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Photo by ALAN SCHMIERER.

Still, I think no one can deny that this forest is a unique, natural gem that's only a five-hour drive from Los Angeles. With almost all other forms of entertainment closed at the moment due to the pandemic, hiking outdoors is one of the only things left to do.

So if you're in L.A., I recommend you get out of town for a weekend by visiting the Acient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Once you do, please leave a comment here if you also got the sense it's enchanted.

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I'm a relationships expert with a focus on post-divorce dating and family. Everything I've learned about love, I've learned the hard way. You can learn from my mistakes.

Los Angeles, CA
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