Maybe you’ve heard of the Methuselah tree, a nearly 5,000 year old Great Basin bristlecone pine, which was for decades considered the world’s oldest living individual tree. In 2012, it lost the title to one of its neighbors in California’s remote White Mountains, but that doesn’t really affect you, as both bristlecone pines have been left unmarked, so they won’t be vandalized. (Don’t believe anyone would do such a thing? Another ancient tree in the grove was cut down in 1964—by misguided researchers!) But if you’re jonesing for old wood, the state boasts another, semi-secret Methuselah tree that’s also a lot easier to get to.
Drive up Highway 84 into the Santa Cruz mountains, due west of Palo Alto, and head 3.3 miles north on Skyline Drive. There’s no sign up at the roadside marking the massive Sequoia sempervirens (its full name is the Methuselah Redwood), but you’ll see a little pullout on the right side of Skyline, with room for a couple of cars. (If you overshoot it, you can park at the Sierra Morena trailhead, a few hundred feet farther, on your left. Just be careful crossing Skyline!) At the southern end of the pullout is a path leading down to the base of the massive tree, which, by some weird perceptual magic, you just never notice when you’re driving by. Being only about 1,800 years old, this Methuselah is but a youngster compared to its bristlecone brethren. Still, it’s one of the grandest sights around.
Photos Courtesy of Christine Ryan