Now and again when a free moment presents itself I seek to learn something new. Maybe even something I can share with some interested, or feigning interest, client hiking in the backcountry.
On this particular day I sought to study the geological realm of one of the areas where we guide backpacking adventures. Luckily, I stumbled upon some easily digestible examinations of the pinon pine tree instead! More interesting, and written in a simplified manner that I could understand, I became unregrettably sidetracked from the sedimentary layer, overlying deposits and environments of deposition research.
Hooked, I thought it important to share a few factoids about the pinon tree and will save the environments of deposition research findings for another time!
A native species to the southwest region of the United States, the pinon tree is most often recognized in the Upper Sonoran and tends to share a woodland zone with juniper trees. For years I have walked amongst these trees always noting their piney scent in the dry air of a sandy land. Scanning the readings, there were a few additional tidbits to learn. Including a new finding for me – the bluish-green needles of the tree can live to be six years old.
Able to grow to a height of 45-feet, the trunk and branches are often crooked and the crown regularly grows wider than the tree is tall. The rough bark has reddish irregular furrows, and, the tree itself takes 180 years to produce a trunk of one foot in diameter. Amazingly, the pinon tree has a lifespan of approximately 400 to 500 years.
The tree is best known for its seeds. The largest and most nutritious of all pine seeds, the seeds collected can be eaten raw, ground or roasted. The protein quality of the pinon nut is only surpassed by the cashew and can yield 3,000-calories per pound. An adaption, the pinon is known to have seed production cycles only once every five or six years.
Still scanning I suddenly learned that the largest living pinon pine on record is located a mere three hours from the Pagosa Springs basecamp … three hours! I think another road trip is on the horizon! Who is ready for a backpacking trip to find the pinon pine?