On Friday we asked our readers to identify which U.S. State sports these awesome fall colors. Had we not taken the photograph ourselves we’d have had a hard time choosing among Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho. All three are solid candidates with rugged mountain vistas like the one hinted at in the photo. Perhaps more telling is the dominance of brilliantly golden Aspen leaves that distinguish fall in the Rocky Mountain region from the more varied colors of New England. It’s no wonder our readers overwhelming selected Colorado (44%) as our Fall Foliage spot.
But as much as this looks like a Rocky Mountain scene, it isn’t. The surprising location for this photograph is Nevada; or more specifically, Great Basin National Park about 290 miles north of Las Vegas.
While hiking through a forest of 4,000 year-old bristlecone pines toward the 13,063 foot alpine summit of Wheeler Peak, we had to keep reminding ourselves we were actually in Nevada. This area, while arid – getting only about 10 inches of precipitation per year, mostly in the form of snow – looks nothing like the flat and dusty landscape we normally associate with Nevada. In fact, the experience made us discard all of our preconceived notions about the state; something that happens more frequently the more we travel.
Congratulations, by the way, to the 2 people who correctly identified Nevada as the site of this photograph.
Disturbing park fact: Thriving in harsh environments inhospitable to other faster growing plants, the often dwarf-sized bristlecone pine tree is the world’s longest living organism. The oldest known specimen currently lives in the White Mountains near Bishop, California and is estimated to be about 4,600 years old. California retains the title as host to this world’s oldest living organism only because a 4,900+ year-old bristlecone living in Great Basin’s Wheeler Peak grove was cut down by a graduate student in 1964 for research purposes.