Before we leave town, there’s an old mine site worth a visit. There’s an out and back route just over a mile or explore doing a longer route on the Methuselah Walk. The weather can be unpredictable so bring layers and sun protection.
Mileage: < 5 miles
Elevation: < 700 ft gain
Rating: 4/10 or tougher due to the elevation ~ 10,000′
Fee: There may be a fee of $3.00 per person/ maximum of $6.00 per car. Children under 18 are free. Interagency Passes are accepted.
From Big Pine, head east on CA-168 for 12.9 miles, then turn left onto White Mountain Road. Follow this for about 10.2 miles to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest visitor center. This road is narrow and winding.
In the remote, desolation of the White Mountains, amidst some of the oldest trees on the planet, hearty and determined settlers fought isolation and brutal weather conditions to eke out an existence digging holes in the ground looking for mineral wealth.
Just a short distance from the Schulman and Methuselah Groves of bristlecone pines, the first non-native explorers in the region established the small Reed Mine in 1863 with the hopes of striking gold and silver.
The shiny stuff never came out of the mountains here, but enough zinc and lead were around to encourage folks to keep digging for a while.
The mining operations changed hands and stopped completely in the 1950s, but several structures still remain and are easily viewed on this quick out-and-back (note: you can also continue on the Cabin Trail and join the Methuselah Walk, although you will miss a section of exemplary views on that route if you hike this way).
This trail meanders near the parking area and then makes a quick climb up on a fairly straightforward route. As with all trails in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, PLEASE STAY ON THE ESTABLISHED ROUTE – bristlecones have surprisingly shallow and wide-reaching root systems that can be easily damaged by hiker’s boots compressing the soil around them.
At just 0.5 mile, you’ll reach the remaining buildings and mine shafts of the Reed Mine, which was sold to the Mexican Mining Company and renamed the Mexican Mine (hence the trail name). All of the wood you see in the remaining construction came from these bristlecones and limber pines.
Despite some modest success here, there was never enough to warrant the “intense development” the Mexican Mining Company planned for the area when they purchased it. A nearby interpretive plaque shows an image of an ‘intensely developed’ site in Nevada that has highlights a significantly higher level of disturbance in the natural environment.
Just beyond the Sculpture Garden, at about the 2.4 mile mark, you’ll enter the Methuselah Grove.
It was in this location in 1957 where Dr. Edmund Schulman took a sample from one of the bristlecones nearby while doing research on climate records in tree rings. Back at camp, while inspecting the specimen under a microscope, he exclaimed “We’ve got a 4,000-plus tree!”
That tree, known as Methuselah, was eventually dated to be over 4,800 years old with a germination date of 2833 BCE! It is still somewhere in this grove, although its exact location is not available to the general public. Part of the charm of walking through the grove, honestly, is not really knowing which one is Methuselah.
For many years, Methuselah was the oldest known living non-clonal organism. A researcher accidentally cut down an even older bristlecone in Nevada in 1964, but in 2012 another bristlecone pine near the Methuselah Grove was discovered with a germination date of 3050 BCE.
Courtesy of Modern Hiker
PLEASE – Know your limits and abilities. Bring snacks and drink plenty of liquids when hiking. Check weather conditions and dress accordingly and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Watching out for poison oak, snakes, ticks, uneven footing, spectacular views, beautiful fauna all while interacting with awesome (usually) fellow hikers can be extremely hazardous, rewarding and fun.
The Farzan Rule: Posted hike times are the time the hike starts or we leave from a posted shuttle location. I’m aware other Meetup groups offer a grace period for late arrivals; we don’t. It’s your responsibility to know the location of the meeting spot and be there and ready to participate at the posted time. If you have any concerns about the directions feel free to contact the organizer of the event, preferably in advance of the event and not at the start time. I’m of the opinion that it’s not fair to delay an event when the majority of attendees have arrived on-time. (so named after a conversation I had with a certain un-named member)
RSVP’s: If you RSVP for an event be responsible and update your RSVP if your plans change. If your plans change at the last second and you’re not able to update your RSVP also let us know. In my opinion a no-show is someone who has no regard for following the guidelines we request from our members and will risk being removed from future events that have a limit.
VHC HIKE RATING SCALE
Rating a hike is subjective, meaning the difficulty of a hike will be in direct relation to how often you hike and the type of hike you prefer. Keep in mind that any hike can have the following: un-even hiking surfaces, various obstructions, water and/or water crossings or bouldering and/or rock hopping. A great hike will have all of these!
1 – A long walk
2 – 4 mile hike w/little elevation gain
3 – 5 mile hike w/up to1000 ft. elevation gain
4 – 5+ mile hike w/up to1500 ft. elevation gain (heart rate increases at times)
5 – 7+ mile hike w/over 1500 ft. elevation gain (heart rate increasing even more at times)
6 – 7+ mile hike w/over 2000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be trying to remember how to perform CPR)
7 – 5+ mile hike w/over 2000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be muttering expletives to yourself)
8 – 10+ mile hike w/over 3500 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be angry with the hike leader)
9 – 10+ mile hike w/over 5000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be thinking of reporting the hike leader to the authorities)
10 – Use your imagination
Class 3 Scrambling: Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands at times to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of boulders, steepness and extreme terrain. Some Class 3 routes have ropes in place for assistance.
DISCLAIMER / RELEASE OF LIABILITY
IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ BELOW IN ITS ENTIRETY:
I am a volunteer (i.e. not liable for the group). Safety is a priority for everyone in the group. Think of this as hiking with a group of friends.
Outdoor sports and other events we plan can be inherently dangerous and accidents may happen. By participating in any posted event, you’re taking responsibility for your own safety and well-being. The Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup Group and its organizers are not trained leaders and we do not confirm the qualifications of any of its members to lead or participate in trips. All participants take full responsibility for their own actions. If you choose to sign up for any Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup events, you are releasing the Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup Group and it’s organizers from all liability in case of possible injuries as stated in paragraph 6.2 of the Meetup “Terms of Service” located on the bottom of the Meetup website. Your personal safety depends on your own judgment and experience.