An old Foxtail Pine snag frames Cirque Peak above the Cottonwood Basin. Pinus balfouriana is a rare pine that is closely related to the Bristlecone pines, which are the world's oldest living things. The Bristlecone pines are found in the White Mountains, one range east of the Sierras. The oldest Foxtail pines are found in the Southern High Sierra. Like the Bristlecones, Foxtail pines can live over 2000 years. Additionally, after they die they can remain standing for a very long time.
These Foxtail snags (aka remnant or sub-fossil wood) hold special value beyond their rugged beauty. The Foxtail growth rings vary measurably in response to variations in climate. Because the dead wood lasts so many years after a tree dies, the Foxtails are valuable for studying past fluctuations in climate. Foxtail pine wood has yielded chronologies of climate going back 4,000 years.