Seeing the pines was the highlight of my husband and my trip. We were so excited when we woke up that we were on the road by 9 am, just a 45 minute drive to the pines. We'd stayed in Big Pine the night before which is about 3,000-ish feet elevation.
Now, are the pines amazing and is it jaw-dropping to see the oldest living thing on earth? It depends. For the vast majority of people yes. And for them, I gave a five star rating. For the rest of us who 1.) get altitude sickness with headaches, vomiting, and mild mental looseness at these heights or who 2.) are afraid of heights to the point that the drive seems like Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" looking out at snow capped mountains from above on a series of hair-pin turns with 9,000-10,000 feet sheer drops down with a two foot gravel "shoulder" all the while (at some point, I froze during the ascent around the scenic view; my travel companion was lying still to not look at all).
For people like us, you drive up a mountain that is the most terrifying driving experience of your life given the heights and drops, and then you find yourself all mentally unhinged due to the altitude, and you spend an hour amongst these outstanding trees -- slightly disappointed to not have enough breath to make it 5 miles down the Methuselah Trail -- taking pictures you don't recall taking, only to experience the terror for a second time around, my passenger begging to lay on his belly on the ground if only I would pull over (there were no pull-offs).
This is a gorgeous park. You will love it.
Except if you have a fear of heights. I'd never had this until this drive, to be blunt. My car companion had it for life but didn't know we'd be going up so fast and quickly. It was a bad dynamic. I saw a few chipmunks, some pines, and felt the greatest possible relief getting to 4,000 feet, and then to town, where I immediately wished I were up the mountain again!
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