On our trip to Colorado, we’d read about some ancient pines on a hillside not far from we were staying. The local guidebook made it seem like it was not far from the main road, but a half hour of tedious driving over increasingly rough terrain had us doubting whether we’d read the map correctly. We had reached the treeline and were not far from the summit of the mountain when a small sign alerted us that we had, indeed, found what we were looking for. The mountainside here was a plateau which began to fall away more steeply as it fanned out from where we stood. We walked down the path away from the car, and as the valley below began to come into view, so did the stand of bristlecone pines.
Bristlecone pines, not good at competing for nutrients with other plants lower down, often grow in inhospitable locations such as Windy Ridge where they can have the hillside to themselves. Here, they can live a millenium or longer. Their tenacity comes at the price of being twisted and dessicated over the years by the harsh, near-constant wind. Indeed, some of the trees appear dead at first glance, wholly bare save for a small tuft of green bristle to indicate that they still cling to life. They can be entirely free of bark, exposing the tortured convolutions of the wood. These traits are what make them photography catnip.
I don’t think I was quite up to the challenge of shooting these pines that day. It’s taken almost a year of editing almost as torturous as the trees themselves to get a set that I’m still not quite happy with, but I wanted to get something out of this place. After all, I don’t know when the next time will be that I’ll get to see the gnarled beauty of the bristlecone pine.