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HIDDEN CORNERS

The granddaddy of old conifers

An ancient lodgepole pine towers over the treetops in the San Bernardino forest.

November 25, 2007|Amy Hubbard

WHAT

The Champion Lodgepole Pine

WHERE

Big Bear Lake

WHY TAKE THE DETOUR

Hunting for this ancient tree takes you farther into San Bernardino Mountains territory and deeper into its history.

The Champion Lodgepole Pine is about 440 years old, which means it germinated around 1560, about four years before Shakespeare was born. The drive to get there, over sometimes wildly rocky road, is SUV-worthy and winds through towering trees and piles of boulders.

After the rough ride, the three-tenths-of-a-mile hike was the easy part. We had the place to ourselves. Numbered posts along the trail correspond to a Forest Service brochure that points out such foresty highlights as white firs, granite, lichens and where parasites have made their mark. The champ pine, so named because in 1963 it was declared to be the largest of its kind, is near a wide meadow and looks like the granddaddy it is, almost a ghostly presence. It reaches about 110 feet into the air and, near the ground, is nearly 20 feet in circumference.

(The wildfires last month did not affect the lodgepole pine area, according to a Big Bear Resort Assn. spokesman.)

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GETTING THERE

Get guides and maps to trails at the Discovery Center, 40971 N. Shore Drive, Fawnskin, Calif.; (909) 382-2790. To get to the lodgepole pine trail head, take California 38 to Mill Creek Road (about 1 mile west of the city of Big Bear Lake); after about 4 1/2 miles, keeping right at forks in the road, turn right on 2N11 and continue for about 1 mile to the trail head.

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