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The World’s Oldest Trees: Journey to California’s White Mountains

Summertime Adventure to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and Owens Valley

June 1, 2012

Joni Kelly, SBBG Communications Manager

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The World’s Oldest Trees: Journey to California’s White Mountains
Summertime Adventure to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and Owens Valley

Santa Barbara, CA – June, 2012

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is offering their first bus trip in more than 20 years. Participants will enjoy a unique, expert-guided natural history adventure departing from Santa Barbara on Tuesday, July 31 and returning Friday, August 3. Guests will spend 3 nights at the elegant and comfortable Creekside Inn located in historic Bishop, California. Trip cost includes transportation, 7 meals, entry fees, and accommodations. This trip gives participants the chance to observe the dramatic transformation in plant life that occurs between the floor of the Owens Valley (at about 4,000 feet) and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (at just over 10,000 feet). Participants will see the gradual, but significant changes in plant communities that occur between the northern and southern sections of the picturesque Owens Valley, as well as learn about the human history of the region. The trip will be led by SBBG Herbarium Curator and Botanist Steve Junak and UCSB Professor Emeritus of Geology and Tectonics, Tanya Atwater, Ph.D. Mr. Junak is an expert on the plants of the Channel Islands, and has been leading field trips for the Garden and many other scientific organizations for more than 35 years. Dr. Atwater is an outstanding teacher and is well known for her work on the plate tectonic history of western North America and the San Andreas fault system.

This trip will allow participants to discover many natural wonders which occur because of California’s diverse topography and climate. The various destinations of the trip lie in the Basin and Range Province, a vast region that covers most of the western United States and is characterized by alternating mountain ranges and flat arid valleys. Isolated, high elevation mountain peaks in the province act as “sky islands” surrounded by arid lowlands. These “sky islands” provide critical habitat for the isolated populations of unique plants and animals that can survive the extreme climatic conditions found on the peaks. The Ancient Bristlecone Forest exists on one of these “sky islands” and is home to the world’s oldest living trees—some over 4,700 years old. Participants will visit and tour the Schulman Grove of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, which offers leisurely hiking (manageable for older participants) and the opportunity to experience the beauty of these amazing ancient trees.

Participants will also explore Mono Lake, an alkaline lake covering 65 square miles. Mono Lake is home to trillions of brine shrimp who are a food source for the approximately 2 million migratory birds that feed on them annually. Over 90 species of birds come to Mono Lake as part of their migration every year. Santiago Escruceria, Outdoor Experiences Program Manager for the Mono Lake Committee, will join the group at this location. Mr. Escruceria is an avid birder and leads walks in his native country of Columbia during the winter months, and leads tours for school groups and the general public in the Mono Basin during the summer.

North of Mono Lake and close to the Nevada border lays the ghost town of Bodie, the best-preserved ghost town in California. W.S. Bodey and others founded the town of Bodie as a gold mining camp in the latter part of the 1800s. Following the discovery of another gold deposit in 1875, the town boomed. At the town’s peak, Bodie was home to around 6,000 people, had a main street that was a mile long and even had its very own Chinatown. But as gold mining exploded in other states like Utah and Arizona, miners lost interest in Bodie. The town began feeling the effects of its decline during the 1890s and then more strongly around 1913. All industry was officially shut down in 1942, just prior to World War II. Trip participants will enjoy wandering the streets of this bygone, Wild West town and exploring its abandoned wooden buildings, which still house contents dating back to the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Other trip highlights include visits to the Eastern California Museum in the historic town of Independence, the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, and a stop in the notable mining town of Randsburg. The Eastern California Museum provides visitors with exhibits that explore the history of Inyo country and the Eastern Sierras, while the Maturango Museum focuses on Death Valley and the Northern Mojave Desert. Randsburg is considered a “Living Ghost Town” and has a rich mining history.

According to Judy Sanregret, SBBG Director of Education, “This is the first bus tour we have offered our members and the community in years, and we really want to give folks the opportunity to sit back and soak in the spectacular scenery of the eastern Sierras without worrying about driving and hotel accommodations. Steve Junak is famous for his wealth of knowledge about the ecology and natural history of California, and Tanya Atwater is a world-renowned geologist; this combination is sure to create a very exciting trip as they both eagerly share fascinating facts and interesting stories about this often-overlooked part of the state. This will be a wonderful adventure for the novice as well as the experienced naturalist!”

Participants will depart from Santa Barbara in a 32-passenger bus on Tuesday, July 31 at 9:00am and stay 3 nights at the Creekside Inn in Bishop, California. The bus will return to Santa Barbara on Friday, August 3 at approximately 6:00pm. The cost for this trip is $725 for SBBG members (double occupancy); $850 for non-members (double occupancy). The trip cost includes the bus charter, 3 nights at the Creekside Inn in Bishop (double occupancy), 3 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and all entry fees.

For registration please call 805-682-4726 x 102 or go to www.sbbg.org under “classes.” Registration Deadline: July 13th

For further information, to arrange an interview with Botanist, Steve Junak and/or Geologist, Tanya Atwater, or request high-res images please contact Joni Kelly, Communications Manager, at 805-682-4726 ext. 132 or via cell at 805-886-1869.

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About the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: The Garden is a 78-acre educational and scientific institution fostering the conservation of California’s native plants and serves as a role model for sustainable practice in Santa Barbara, California. The Garden was founded in 1926 and is among of the nation’s oldest botanic gardens focused exclusively on native plants.

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# # # #

About the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: 
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a 78-acre educational and scientific institution fostering the conservation of California’s native plants and serves as a role model for sustainable practice in Santa Barbara, California. The Garden was founded in 1926 and is among the nation’s oldest botanic gardens focused exclusively on native plants.

To arrange an interview or to request high-resolution photos, please contact:

SBBG Communications Coordinator
(805) 682-4726 ext. 132