Bennett Juniper: 4,000-Year-Old Wonder

The ancient specimen calls the Stanislaus National Forest home.

TREE TREK: Planning a vacation solely around visiting a magnificent and stately shrub isn't unheard of; in fact, many an adventurer regularly plots to call upon the General Sherman, that superstar sequoia, or the Torrey Pines near La Jolla. And, yes, even trees that have been gussied up, as in the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, make it onto some vacationers' travel itineraries. But few leafy living things garner the attention of California's very (very very) old trees. For sure, the General Sherman and the Torrey Pines do qualify when it comes to being of an esteemed age, as do the redwoods and those Bristlecone Pines of the Inyo National Forest. One of the oldest trees around, however, in the Golden State or anywhere, can't be admired for much of the year, at least not in person. If you're patient, and you plan, you can call upon the Bennett Juniper when the time is right (in other words, when the road in is accessible). And the time is getting righter, for...

THE MIDDLE OF JUNE... is generally when Bennett buffs may visit the protected tree, a tree of some age. The beautiful juniper is "believed by some to be 4,000 years old," says the Save the Redwoods League, which oversees the Bennett Juniper Stewardship Project. Standing at some 8,400 feet, the Bennett Juniper was named for naturalist Clarence Bennett, and is only accessible by the public for just a little less than half the year. Best call first to make sure the route is open and read all the to-knows before packing the car (of course there's no climbing on the tree, which almost can go without saying, but we're repeating it).

THE BENNETT... isn't alone, as there are other ancient junipers in the area, and its ability to weather the weather, whether that means freeze or breeze, is impressive. It's a fine tree to know, or at least make the acquaintance of, and your window to do so is just ahead. The Bennett Juniper is patient; after all, it has grown, and thrived, in the Sierra about four millennia, which is nothing to shake a branch at, no sirree.

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