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If you live on the West Coast you know that it is raining today.  With three feet of snow forecast for the Sierras it reminded me of a trip I took in 2007 to the Sierra foothills in search of Sierra Junipers and I thought it might make an interesting post for those either unfamiliar with this tree or for those that have only seen one in a bonsai pot.

We are blessed that in our area we have an opportunity to see these at our bonsai show – a rarity for sure for other parts of the U.S. These are hardy trees that live up to 9,000 feet and endure the harshness of brutal winters and the shortness of spring, fall and summer.

Our walk up the mountain!

Our walk up the mountain!

The reason we made the hike - a massive Sierra Juniper.

The reason we made the hike - a massive Sierra Juniper.

This is the tree we came to see on this trip.  It was a long hike up from the parking lot but well worth the struggle.  It is hard to tell the scale of this tree from the photo so let’s continue to gain perspective on this tree.

A better perspective of the scale of this massive tree.

A better perspective of the scale of this massive tree.

This Sierra Juniper has significant deadwood and one could guess this tree is several thousand years old.  This tree was already old when our country signed the Declaration of Independence and our guess is that it could be upwards of 3,000 years old.

So just how large is this tree? Well I think the next photograph will answer that question.

This photo speaks for itself.

This photo speaks for itself.

This tree is embedded into this rather large chunk of granite.  Notice the scale with Mike and Boon on or near its base.  What you can’t see is that one of its roots continue down the side of the granite and extends another 30 feet past its granite pedestal.

Let’s take a peek at some of the dead nebari at the base of this tree.

Incredible deadwood at the base of the tree - dead nebari.

Incredible deadwood at the base of the tree - dead nebari.

One has to just stand in awe when seeing this tree in person.  One that it grew out of the midst of this huge piece of granite, has survived years of harsh climate, likely has withstood a lightning strike, and yet continue to stand strong with foliage the color of green meadows in Ireland.  It is simply majestic – as if perched on its a throne to rival even that of an Egyptian King.

This area was full of significant Sierra Junipers.  Let’s look at the next subject of our camera lense.

A twisted Sierra Juniper

A twisted Sierra Juniper

Daisaku Nomoto of Miyazaki, Japan (an incredible bonsai master) crouches next to this old tree.  Look at the twists in the trunk of this Sierra.  I can just imagine the heavy load of cold and wet snow that helped to create this structure amongst winds approaching 100 miles per hour in this open area.

Twisted trunk and branches.

Twisted trunk and branches.

We would love to see a time lapse photograph of how these twists and turns were created over the years.    It is as if these twists and turns help to keep it warm during those cold harsh winters.  Even though the tree is barely five feet tall, we can imagine if we stretched out these twists and turns it would be at least 4-5 time that length.

This was a favorite place for photos to be taken.  In fact if you would like to see many more photos that I shot that day you can visit this URL for more photographs.

These two trees are wonderful examples of Sierra Junipers and I hope it encourage you to make the trip to this location in order to see trees of this caliber.  I’m sure that you have experienced the raw beauty of God’s creation and this area doesn’t disappoint.  Let me share a few more photos of the area.

A scenic view of stones and distant mountains.

A scenic view of stones and distant mountains.

I suppose there is yellow and red jasper in this stone but this scene just had to be recorded as it was stunning to behold on a bright and sunny summer day.

Plant life on the granite floor.

Plant life on the granite floor.

I love this photograph. It represents to me the strength in life.  Observe how these small plants seem to be growing out of dense granite reaching upwards to enjoy the warmth of the sun before disappearing below the winter snow.

A Sierra with a branch long ago lost to the harshness of this area.

A Sierra with a branch long ago lost to the harshness of this area.

Massive deadwood against a stark blue sky.

Massive deadwood against a stark blue sky.

The juxtaposition of color is pronounced in this photograph. The deep dark blue sky, the green foliage and the grayish white deadwood is striking.  What isn’t shown is how large this tree really is. With most of its top branches broken so long ago.

As we began the hike down from this area, I took a different path down and came across this scene below.

A 40 foot Sierra Juniper in the background.

A 40 foot Sierra Juniper in the background.

This photo is a good representation of the area several hundred feet below the junipers shown at the beginning of the post.  A beautiful double trunk Sierra.  I’ve often thought this tree is such beautiful form – too bad we couldn’t duplicate it and put it into an antique Chinese pot. What a bonsai it would make.

The Sierra Juniper can only be found in a few Western States.  They are beautifully rugged trees with an incredible will to live.  Strong in form but with almost feminine foliage. They are a wonder to behold.

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