Logan Canyon’s Limber Pine Trail

July 31, 2023


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Photographer: Ray Boren

Summary Boren: Ray Boren

Like many of us, the gray-and-black bird known as a Clark’s nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) sometimes forgets where it puts things. In this case we’re referring to the seeds, or pine nuts, of the limber pine (Pinus flexilis), a tree also called the Rocky Mountain white pine. The grand tree in the first photograph, taken on June 15, 2023, is actually a cluster of multiple limber pines that grew very closely together, apparently having germinated and sprouted more than 500 years ago from seeds hidden by just such a nutcracker. The bird buried them for later consumption . . . and then forgot about the cache.

The site of this tight-knit limber pine collective is a goal of those hiking the Limber Pine Trail, like the two young trekkers pictured at its base, who provide a sense of scale. The forest path is a moderate 1.2-mile (1.9 kilometer) loop along a ridge of northern Utah’s Bear River Mountains, at the top of Logan Canyon above Bear Lake, which is distantly visible in a second view taken from the wildflower-lined path. The trail includes more than a dozen informational signs, provided by the U.S. Forest Service. Some tell hikers about the nutcrackers, named for William Clark of the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition, and also known as a Clark’s crow or woodpecker crow. Clark’s nutcrackers bury thousands of seeds, of various pine species, each autumn along these high slopes, intending to eat them in winter and spring. Often a single sapling will rise from a forgotten seed. Occasionally, though, multiple seedlings will sprout together like this.

As with some of its relatives, such as bristlecone and whitebark pines, limber pines — named for their long, flexible needle- and cone-bearing branches — can live for a remarkable span of time. One tree in this vicinity is estimated to be 2,500 years old, and equally aged examples have been documented throughout the West.


Bear River Range, Utah Coordinates: 42.133333-111.616667

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