his huge ponderosa pine, the oldest in western Montana's Bitterroot National Forest, and at 114 feet in height believed to be the second largest in the state, stands some distance up the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. It was perhaps 600 years old when the Corps of Discovery marched out of Ross Hole and down the main river valley to Travelers' Rest. To the Salish people it was a landmark and road-sign of great cultural significance for more than 500 years.
Having survived innumerable, unremembered vicissitudes, including fire, for eight centuries, it surrendered its spirit to a final, fatal lightening strike on July 16, 1993. Nevertheless, it was expected to remain standing for another hundred years, but early in the morning of August 20, 2008, it was reported ablaze from the ground up. By midmorning the fire had burned through the hollow trunk, and the top half fell to the ground. The cause of the fire is unknown.
Photo: Bitterroot National Forest