Stanislaus National Forest
Sonora, CA 95370, USA
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Visiting one of the oldest trees in the world: The Bennett JuniperI had been staying at a friend's cabin deep in Stanislaus National Forest at Haypress Lake for a few days. We were painting and hiking when a conversation was struck up about visiting one of the oldest trees in the world. A small party of us decided to head up a service road and visit the Bennett Juniper.
It stands, over 80 feet high, on wide expanse of plateau. In the summer the rocky and scrubby ground is littered with lupins and other high alpine flowers. There was a constant gentle breeze, few birds, and virtually no other visitors.
It's hard to put into perspective how large the tree is, in part because there are no other objects near it to compare it to. Once you've walked down the path to inspect the trunk do you really shrink into the tree's shadow. It's not like visiting a massive redwood, a juniper is smaller, slower growing species. You need to really appreciate the soil is bad, and so is the climate. If the tree is as old as 6,000 years it may have grown only a small fraction of an inch in a good year! It escaped being felled by fires, and chainsaw, and is now a protected tree with a live-in care taker.
If you go, bring water, and a camera and a picnic. I think it is well worth your time if you are in the area to sit, observe, enjoy the silence, and ponder time. 6,000 years of it.
(To get to the tree, you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle, and you have to cross 2 running rivers. It's easily 15 miles from a paved road. Check with the forest service before going.)