Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Timberline Forest on the Bighorn Plateau

TawnyOldNewTreesBW2007|08|09.jpg
Two Forests, Bighorn Plateau. Sierra Nevada, California. August 9, 2007. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

This photo is from a place that I regard as one of the most intriguing locations in the Sierra Nevada, the area near Tawny Point on the Bighorn Plateau along the John Muir Trail (JMT) just north of Mt. Whitney. This particular spot is quite high – over 11,000′ – and right at timberline, but instead of rocky and steep terrain it is rounded and rolling and open. From the highest points there is a 360-degree view of the highest peaks in the Sierra: the crest to the east, the north wall of the Kern Basin to the north, the Great Western Divide and the Kaweahs to the west and south.

This little section of timberline forest fascinates me. This year I encountered it while heading north from Wallace and Wright Creeks and ascending toward the high spot at Tawny Point. Right at timberline there is an extensive old forest of large but long-dead trees. Among them is a newer, younger forest of much smaller trees. What killed the original forest, and how did such large trees survive here? How old are these snags? What happened that allowed the new forest to reestablish itself here?

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August 28, 2007 - Posted by | Commentary, Places, Sierra Nevada

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