The Twisted Forest and Oktoberfest at Brian Head
I had seen quite a few bristlecone pines since returning to Utah but there is an area on the north rim of Cedar Breaks named the Twisted Forest that was on my list to see. I won’t repeat everything about the pines since I went on about them for a good length in this post, but in summary, they’re the oldest living organisms, surviving up to 5,000 years in cold, unforgiving climates and in poor soil. And poor soil is an understatement here on the the exposed sandstone and limestone rim of the canyon at 10,500 feet since I saw no evidence of anything but gravel and crumbled rock. Battered by wind, these trees hang on by spacing themselves far apart and sending their roots sprawling in an attempt to both suck up available water and remain standing in this harsh environment. Many of the bristlecones are so ancient that they’re weathered in much the same way as stone, and the unsheltered trees in the twisted forest are some of the best examples of this.
Because it’s located within a few miles of Brian Head Tom and I combined our trip to see the gnarly bristlecones with an afternoon hanging out at the Oktoberfest being held there. There is a mile long trail at the twisted forest but we chose to just walk and explore the drainages and steep hills upon which the bristlecones cling. If you ever have the chance to visit here though make sure you walk up to the rim of the canyon because the views are spectacular. This time of year we could easily see the yellow and orange patches of turning aspens as well as the dense carpet of spruce and firs. It’s like an alien landscape in the midst of sub-alpine forest.
After exploring, we drove the few miles to the ski resort at Brian Head and claimed a hay bale to enjoy the live music, traditional German dances, and pints of beer. Both Wasatch and Squatters Breweries out of Salt Lake had come down to the festival and this was my first time sampling some Utah beer. I really enjoyed the Wasatch Pumpkin Ale and their year-round Apricot Hefewizen but I was tipped off that doing a half and half mix was surprisingly good and yeah, it was pretty awesome. Who would’ve thought? After having some fruity pints I had the very solid Squatters Pale Ale for my last beer of the day and then we headed back down the mountain, pausing to stop at Sunset Overlook at Cedar Breaks.