Last year we made friends with some Ancient Bristlecone Pine trees (In Search of Methuselah and Ancient Tree People). They are quite old, much older than us. But our apparent age difference did not seem to matter to them. They don’t talk much, something we appreciate. However, they can impart wisdom characteristic of their age. Each one that we met became our new best friend. Leaving them was very difficult not knowing if or when we would see them again.

Fast forward one year, almost to the day, we are going to visit our friends again. They reside at over 9,000 feet above sea level, on a cool and windy mountaintop. Some have been here for thousands of years. You can look it up! Kathryn and I are a bit anxious as we get close. Would they remember us and our special bond?

We arrived to no fanfare, virtually no other humans can be found. Such a lonely but beautiful place. Our friends reside just 1/2 mile up a winding trail from the parking lot. We do not encounter any of their offspring along the way. Are they still there? Did they move? Did they die? These and many other thoughts go through my mind. It’s a short hike but at 9,846 feet high, each step is difficult. How can they live here with hardly any oxygen?

We make the final turn around a pile of rocks. There they are! Two of the elder statestrees in the entire grove, husband and wife. They practice good social distancing staying more than six feet apart. With California struggling, I want to make sure our friends and us are safe. But, I couldn’t help myself. I hugged one and then the other. Hello, my friends.

It is very late in the day, nearing sunset, when I broach a potentially dicey subject (and the main reason for our visit). These are very proud and dignified trees, often bordering on xenophobia. Would they allow us to photograph them with the Milky Way above? It could be burdensome for them, we will need them to be very still, 15 seconds at a time for 15 images. We knew it was a lot to ask, four minutes of being very still.

This image is a composite from a single foreground image taken at blue hour and with 15 star images stacked (to reduce noise). Four minutes to take the images and an hour to stack and edit.

This image is from 15 stacked images, keeping the trees as silhouettes.

As you can see they were up to the task, doing so with a geniality one normally doesn’t expect from a Bristlecone Pine. Which of the two images/styles to you prefer?

Goodbye my friends, we hope visit again next year. Perhaps we can have a birthday party for your 3,617th birthday!

Remember, it’s all about the star-light.