The Ancient Bristlecone
|"Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world." – David McCullough Jr.|
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to the oldest trees on Earth –– bristlecone pines. Some exceed 4,000 years old and appear sculptured by the wind. I’ve never seen them before and I’m looking forward to this adventure. The name alone conjures wild images about this natural area situated off SR 168, about 24 miles from Big Pine, CA, along Hwy 395. New destinations are an attraction to me, especially when riding my motorcycle.
I intend to camp at the Grandview Campground, situated at 8,600 feet.
|The Grandview Campground can be seen below.|
It’s Memorial Day weekend so I arrive early on Thursday, increasing my chances of a campsite at the Grandview Campground. My brother, Gilbert will arrive on Friday, and if the campground is full, our backup plan is dispersed camping in the Inyo National Forest.
Then, we'll ride to Bishop, CA, for the annual Bishop Mule Days. The parade begins sharply at 10 a.m. This is the longest, non-motorized parade in the country. It’s a favorite of mine, and I'm hoping to see our Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks packers compete.
Grandview Campground is five miles from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. Now, my priority is searching for a campsite. As luck would have it, there is an empty, secluded spot, that is perfect. The campsite borders a large meadow and has a huge tree for shade and shelter. There is a table and a fire ring. Without hesitation, I stake this camp and begin unloading my gear.
|This huge tree at the Grandview Campground provides excellent shelter.|
It’s quiet here, and as evening approaches, my campfire glows beneath an incredible sunset with the Sierra Range in the background. My gourmet dinner is saved for tomorrow night when Gilbert arrives. Tonight, it’s Dinty Moore Stew with a Hostess cupcake for dessert. My transition radio picks up a country-western station from nearby Bishop. I’m thankful for such an incredible camping spot with an ever-changing sunset. The stars are bright and will be my companions tonight. My finger follows several satellites that in seconds crisscross the entire sky.
|Reflected on my Indian Springfield is a beautiful sunset.|
|Nature paints a spectacular sunset.|
Laying in my sleeping bag, I consciously breathe in life and exhale gratitude. A simple, yet deliberate act. This is one of the best campsites ever. Before the natural light disappears, I thank the universe for this moment.
Tomorrow, I'll explore the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest situated at about 10,000 feet.
HIGH ON THE MOUNTAIN
The sweeping view of the Sierra Range is stunning. Looking to the northwest, I can see Bishop far below, looking like a small postage stamp. It’s colder at the higher elevation. The wind begins to blow stronger. It’s invigorating. My bike does not falter as we climb higher.
|The road is paved to Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center with a dirt road beyond there.|
|The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center at Schulman Grove.|
|"The ability to use adversity to its advantage |
allows bristlecones to evolve into living monuments of time."
|There are several easy-going self-guided trails to explore the forest.|
|The view leaving the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is stunning. A short walk is invigorating.|
Walking, I feel shortness of breath. Then, nature whispers, “Rest." Enjoy the view.” I listen, grateful for this moment. It's quiet and I can hear the wind coming up the canyon from far below. The screech from a redtail hawk startles me. I watch it decent towards Bishop in seconds.
COMPANY ARRIVES EARLY
I heard Gilbert's motorcycle well before I saw him. I could tell, from across the open meadow, that he was looking for me. From a good distance, I waved my arms hoping he would see me. He followed the dirt road and was headed towards my campsite. He made a good time traveling from Apple Valley, CA and arrived two hours before I expected him. We had plenty of daylight for him to set up camp and for me to prepare that gourmet dinner –– tamales.
|Robert and Gilbert Griego – Grandview campsite.|
The tamales are slowly heating on my Pocket Rocket. We have Fritos and bean dip as hors d’oeuvers. It’s good to have company. Gilbert quickly unloads his camping gear behind the massive tree. The tamales are delicious! It’s been a while since we’ve ridden together.
|Two American legends – Indian Springfield and Harley-Davidson Street Glide. |
Our secluded campsite beneath this massive tree.
“I’m approaching 100,000 miles on my bike,” Gilbert says. Now, that’s special. There aren’t many bikers who can say the same. Thinking back, I know we’ve traveled over 25,000 miles together across Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and our favorite –– New Mexico. Riding with a like-minded brother is rewarding.
Today is special. The evening sky is ever-changing. The gentle wind picks up and the temperature dramatically drops. Our fire is warm but the heat quickly dwindles a few feet from the fire ring. The breeze becomes a strong wind. It’s much colder now. We kick the remaining logs into the fire and talk well into the night.
|A campfire, brothers, and a sunset.|
Without a lot of fanfare, we slip into our sleeping bags while our fire glows into the night. The massive tree helps divert the fierce winds, while our bikes do their best to block the rest of it. At 8,600 feet, it’s cold.
Morning arrives slowly for me. Gilbert is an early riser, unlike me. As I crawl out of my sleeping bag, I smell coffee while he's preparing a special breakfast. He calls it a Wham Bam Special – Spam, New Mexico green chile, tortillas, leftover bean dip, and two hard-boiled eggs, fried together. It was the best breakfast ever!
|Breakfast with a grand view.|
BISHOP HERE WE COME
We brake camp quickly and begin riding towards Bishop for the parade. Privately, I hope to see my friend, Jim Harvey, celebrating his 86th birthday. He’s a regular and can be seen at his security post directing the traffic of horse and mule contestants.
Today, old-timers stop to talk and swap stories. Young contestants pause as well, tipping hats as they ride past. They know that he's a Sierra legend. Respect.
|We pause to remember family veterans no longer with us this Memorial Day.|
*Sebastian Griego, *Valentin Moya, *Buddy Moya, *Gene Christiansen , *John Lopez.
|Robert Griego and Jim Harvey. Today is Jim's 86th birthday!|
In his prime, at these events, he was the No.1 All-Round Cowboy.
|11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Horse Detachment lead the parade.|
These boys are from Fort Irwin Military Base, near my home town Barstow.
|This cowgirl races to the finish line.|
Her horse is full of determination.
|Two cowboys drive a big rig. |
I wonder what they're talking about?
|Amigos Mexican Restaurant in Bishop offers great food.|
|I arrived by myself, I left with my brother.|
The journey continues...