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Discover the Oldest Living Things on Earth! Your Guide to Visiting the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
THE ANCIENT BRISTLECONE PINE FOREST
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to the world's oldest living tree's. Some of these gnarled and twisted tree's are over 4,700 years old making them the OLDEST LIVING THINGS on the planet! To put that in perspective, these tree's started their life out back when stone axes were still being used in Europe.
The Bristlecone Pine Forest is situated in the White Mountains of the Eastern Sierra's and the tree's grow at an altitude between 9,800 and 11,00 feet. The White Mountains themselves are pretty spectacular as they are over 14,000 feet in elevation but are not as well-known as other mountain ranges of the same height in America. There is a visitor's center at Schulman Grove which is open generally from May through to October depending on snow conditions.
If you can plan your visit in the warmer months and not in late November like us, you will have a much more pleasant experience. It can get freezing up there because of the elevation.
For some people, New Years Eve is about partying and drinking but for us this year it was all about hitting the road and having an outdoor adventure (as it had been awhile). At first we couldn't decide between Joshua Tree and Mammoth Lakes but after seeing the mass of crowds headed for Joshua our decision was made easier.
We made our way out of sprawling L.A. with no plans other then to stop as we please along the way but with hopes to get a decent snow storm before we got to Mammoth (as they had been mentioning for the past week).
Welcome to the Golden State. Whether you are a sun worshipper, an outdoor enthusiast, into exhilerating sports, a foodie or love road tripping to see quirky attractions, California has it all! From towering mountains to idyllic palm tree beaches to deserts that are perfect for finding solitude. Here is the Ultimate California Bucket List.
1. Road trip on Big Sur
The Big Sur coastline is California's biggest drawcard and people from all over the world come to drive this magnificent stretch of road where rugged mountains plunge into the wild Pacific ocean.
2. Hike to the Hollywood sign
Hollywood, where dreams are made. You can't come to the city of angels and not do this hike!
Related: How to spend 2 days in Los Angeles
3. Visit the lowest point in America at Badwater Basin
At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America. This is a surreal landscape of vast salt flats which you can walk out on to.
Related: 10 Things to Do in Death Valley
A couple of weeks ago we climbed Mt Whitney. At 14,508ft, Mt Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. I had wanted to climb Whitney ever since I was seventeen when I had stumbled across Galen Rowell's 'The Art of Adventure' at a second hand bookstore all the way back in Australia, where nobody even knows what the Eastern Sierra's are. The trail itself is 21 miles (33km) with 6000ft elevation gain and is not to be taken lightly.
The historic Columbia River Highway was the first scenic highway in the United States and is designated a National Historic Landmark. The highway is about 75 miles long between Troutdale and the Dalles in Oregon and travels through the Columbia Gorge, transitioning between temperate rainforest to dry grasslands in only 80 miles. The area is best known for its high concentration of waterfalls but is also a popular destination for hiking, mountain-biking, fishing, watersports and sight-seeing. The Columbia River Gorge is the perfect day trip from Portland on a hot summer's day or worth road tripping out to spend a week or two to fully explore the area.
Multnomah Falls is the most visited and most photographed of the waterfalls along the scenic Columbia River Highway. Multnomah Falls is a roaring, 611-foot cascading waterfall that is easily accessed via the parking lot. For a closer view walk several hundred feet along the paved trail to the bridge which spans the falls first tier's misty base. From here you will have the perfect view of the top tier's full 542-foot height.
Road tripping the Oregon coast was a spur of the moment decision. We were in Portland trying to figure out our next move - which was going to be heading straight to the Californian border then hugging the coastline from there. It was the middle of winter and we had been avoiding living out of the van (road tripping in the cold just ain't fun) and wanted to find some warmer weather asap... But we thought to ourselves, why waste the opportunity to see a beautiful coastline?
When it comes to surfing in California, it gets no better than the Santa Cruz surf scene! Globally recognized as “surf city,’ this area of the beautiful California coastline boasts some of the best waves on the west coast and thousands of dedicated surfers travel from across the world just to get their boards in the water here. Santa Cruz has some of the most popular beaches as well as some of the most challenging to surf. When you want to know where to go for the best surfing of your life, you don’t need to look any further than the beautiful Santa Cruz coastline.
Santa Cruz has more than 30 great surf spots to enjoy. Here are a few of the most popular as well as the most challenging:
Cowell’s is the perfect beach for those that are just learning to surf. The waves are not too high, but definitely high enough to have some fun in the sun. Cowell’s is also very popular with families and sunbathers that want to enjoy their days off work at the beach with friends and family. This beach is definitely one of the most popular areas of the shoreline and you will often find it packed with not only local surfers but with others just enjoying getting their toes in the sand for a little while.
Steamers Lane is the most popular, as well as the most dangerous surfing spot in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is just down the coastline from Steamers Lane and this beach is one that stays packed every day of the year with mostly locals trying to beat their own records for staying up as they head toward the cliff line. The biggest waves are usually found in the winter and its pretty calm but decent waves can be found throughout the rest of the year as well.
The Northern California coast is beautiful, breathtaking and rugged. Our first stop after crossing the Oregon border was Crescent City. Even though Lonely Planet says this coastal town is not worth stopping at, we ended up staying for a couple of days because it had a nice mellow vibe and felt like a safe place to stay in the van. It has all the large chain stores so we stocked up on cooking supplies and found some wifi to check emails. There is a large park by the Visitors Center that is great for picnicking or stretching your legs, which is what we did.
I was determined to find some waves but there wasn’t much swell. We found a safe place to park overnight right by the water where we could check the surf right from our bed and cook while watching the waves roll in. It was epic to say the least!
It was so pretty here because you could look back at the dramatic coastline. We discovered a small headland at the end of the harbor and after climbing over some rocks I was surprised to find a perfect little right hand point. The place looked like it had so much potential if some swell would come.
Fort Bragg is a sleepy little ex-logging town located in Mendocino County on the Northern California coast, not too far from the famous gigantic Redwood trees of Avenue of the Giants. Fort Bragg’s coastline is littered with cove after cove and headland after headland making you think that around the next point will be the perfect setup with pumping waves, but this just isn’t the case. Most of the beaches are sand bottom and seem to struggle to hold banks. However, there are a few places that hold big waves in some pretty sketchy spots. Towing-in would be more appropriate if you were wanting to tackle some of these waves.
Almost every beach in the area seemed to be completely deserted and the only ones occupying the line-up were sea lions. I surfed two spots, one was called Pudding Creek and the other Virgin Beach. There are plenty of other spots that would be surf-able with jet ski assistance. There was so much water moving at some of these breaks it was impossible to paddle out. Pudding Creek is a small cove with a little creek running out through the middle of it into the ocean. I spent most of my time paddling against the current here and it was hard going in the solid waves. I caught a few average waves and was pretty over it. The last wave I paddled into was looking good and I thought I was in for a decent barrel. I pulled in and raced as fast as I could to try and make it out but I was clipped at the end and copped a beating. As I popped up gasping for air I realized I had creased my board pretty bad so I headed in with my tail between my legs. There was never a lack of swell in Fort Bragg while I was there but it did lack decent banks and the water was on the cold side of the scale. Putting on a wetsuit and dealing with the cold water for crap waves wasn't very appealing.
Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment.