The Champion Lodgepole Pine
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.