There are ancient limber pine at the top of Mt Baden Powell. Limber pine are subalpine trees, usually marking the edge of the tree line in the subalpine zone. They are made stunted, twisted and crooked by the wind. There is a word for this: Krummholz.
Some of those limber pine are over 2,000 years old. They were born about the same time as Christ, maybe even a little earlier – perhaps from the days of Julius Caeser. They’ve been there through the entirety of the Roman Empire, through the subsequent break with Antiquity, through medieval times, through the entirety thus far of Christianity, and longer than the entirety thus far of Islam.
The limber pines lived up on top of Baden Powell while Charlemagne conquered (and united) most of modern Europe in the Frankiosh Empire. They lasted through the Black Death that killed nearly a third of the distant-to-them European population – 75 million to 200 million people dead from a flea-borne plague. They’ve lived through the Crusades, the Reconquista, and the Spanish Inquisition. They lived through the Ottoman Empire (which spanned 623 years, and was one of the longest lasting empires in history). They lived through the spread of Christianity, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, the rise of Capitalism, Columbus’ “discovery” of America, the slaughter of native American populations by the Spanish and, later, white Americans. They lived through the American Revolution. They lived through an endless series of wars, including the 10 largest wars by death toll: WWII, The An Shi Rebellion in China, the Mongol Conquests, the Qing Dynasty conquest of the Ming Dynasty, WWI, The Taiping Rebellion, The Second Sino-Japanese War, the Conquests of Tamerlane, and the Russian Civil War. They lived through the Vietnam War, the Invasion of Granada, both Gulf Wars, and, hopefully, they will outlast the war in Afghanistan.
Mount Baden Powell was once named North Baldy. In 1931, the boyscouts succesfully petitioned to have it renamed after their founder, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, who was, (like many British and even more Americans), pro fascist and a Nazi sympathizer. About Mein Kampf, he wrote “A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc.”. He admired Mussolini. He was also likely a repressed homosexual.
Through all these wars, through the rise and fall of empire after empire, through Galileo’s discoveries and through Baron Baden Powell’s yearnings, the limber pines sat atop the mountain, 9,500 feet above sea level, pretty much left alone until the hiking era began, not giving a rat’s ass as all of post Christ history and civilization took place far down below. My climbs up Baden Powell, often in terror due to my fear of heights, have been completely unnoticed by the limber pine even though I’ve been tormented by lingering fear, and have had to make the climb again and again and again in order to finally start to get over it.
It’s extraordinary to realize these wind and weather twisted trees have been growing on that mountain for as long as civilization. Unfortunately, we’ve finally managed introduce some sort of European plant disease that is killing them. Whatever man touches, dies. I am pretty sure God didn’t mean for it to be that way, even though many who most loudly proclaim His name are those most likely to reject any attempts to be good stewards and save the planet.