When the sun goes to sleep behind the Sierra Nevada, a peculiar cast of human characters spring to life in the shaded White Mountains to the east. Donning headlamps and down jackets, they scurry about and huddle around the base of Bristlecone pine trees — some that died thousands of years ago but still stand and allow us to count their rings — 3 or 4 thousand of those, each a year endured in the same exact spot. These are the longest lived trees that exist. A group of 3 astro photographers who met online, rented a car and carpooled from San Fran ask me if I can give them a ride 30 miles back to Bishop after the Milky Way passes behind the tree — the sharp limestone shredded their tire, bare rim is all that’s left. They are disappointed to learn that my tire is also flat. And so, we’re stuck at 11,500ft together in the middle of the night with little to do except for the thing that we came here for. Headlamps flicker on various aspects of the mountain beneath the Ancients. People emerge from the darkness with wild contraptions, some calm, some ancy and possessed by a desire for the perfect image. Screens glow and shutters click in and out of rhythm. The distant galaxy spins behind branches that, even millennia into death, refuse to give up. In the dark, we whisper about technique, about observing the rules to stay on the trail, and about whether the rental car company will cover the tires and tow trucks to get us home. Layers of time and space unfold in front of us. But that part we don’t discuss, it’s better left for our digital sensors and hearts to absorb and reckon with instead.
To watch the film “Treeline”, link in profile. @patagonia