The Fire

Bone Mountain is a 12,000 foot high peak in the remote San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado where our bristlecone has been harvested for over 35 years. It was once covered with a thick forest that consisted mainly of Rocky Mountain Bristlecone trees. These slow-growing pines are amongst the toughest of trees—they thrive in harsh landscapes. They often make their homes on rocky, inhospitable, high-altitude hillsides where they withstand the elements and grow where other trees simply are not able to survive. The Rocky Mountain Bristlecone is a long-lived tree that is a relative of the more well-known Great Basin Bristlecone which is also known as “the oldest living tree.”

In the 1870s, Bone Mountain burned in a forest fire, and the entire mountainside succumbed to the flames. However, after the fire swept through, it left behind a forest of burned trees, which stood on that harsh mountainside for over 130 years, being sculpted by the relentless wind and harsh conditions.

credit: Cornelia Theimer Gardella

The Man

A century later (around 1975), Jim Christy first visited Bone Mountain with a friend.  The mountain was a looming figure in the corner of southern Colorado where he had recently purchased land and was building a homestead. On his first visit to the mountain, he fell in love with its harsh beauty and knew he wanted to spend more time there. He proceeded to procure a Forest Service permit to gather wood on Bone, and has held that permit ever since. In the last thirty-five odd years, he has spent many days enjoying “his” mountainside: cutting and gathering wood despite the limited and difficult access-- while dodging summer lightning storms, breathing the alpine air, and battling the elements in this remote corner of Colorado.

Bone Mountain Bristlecone is a family business. All of the wood has been hand- harvested by Jim Christy, his family, and a few close friends. Much of the wood was gathered in the 1990s when Jim’s sons were teenagers who helped with the job of harvesting the wood. Each piece has been harvested by hand, using the fifty-year-old 1962 Ford truck named “Teddy” that is visible in the photos on this website. “Teddy” had some predecessors that were also 1960s –era pickup trucks. Jim prefers his collection of 1960s trucks because he knows how to fix them, and can swap parts between his various trucks.

The mountain acquired its name in part because of the "bones" of the long-dead forest that litter the mountainside and define the character of a place that has loomed large in the culture of the Christy family for decades.

Jim and his wife, Ruth Ann, have been making beautiful things by hand for their entire lives. Over the years, Jim has  collected more bristlecone than he can hope to use in his own woodworking endeavors, and is excited to offer some of this rare wood for sale so that other crafts people and artists can experience the pleasure of making beautiful things with it. The business is the brainchild of Jim’s daughter-in-law, Laura Mezoff Christy, who owns and operates the business in conjunction with her husband, Luke Christy (aka Jim & Ruth Ann's elder son).

The Wood

Today, the vast majority of the dead bristlecone trees on Bone Mountain have not been harvested (nor will they ever be harvested) due to the rugged nature of the landscape and the lack of roads in the remote area. These trees are inaccessible to vehicles and as such will remain where they grew – and burned—for the foreseeable future.  The wood was harvested without the use of heavy equipment, since the hillsides of Bone Mountain are much too steep to be accessible to machinery. As such, the landscape was disturbed very little, and a few “young” bristlecones have spent the last 130 years growing up amongst the burned husks of the old forest.

Each dead tree on Bone Mountain was initially sculpted by fire. The fire's destructive force carved away at the exterior of the tree, and then, over the decades, the forces of wind and harsh weather removed the charred exterior of the wood, leaving a beautiful patina that is unique to this location. Much of the wood has a lovely grey patina, but a few select pieces have a gorgeous red patina which is caused by the wind and sun. This special patina is rare even amongst the wood found on Bone Mountain.

Please note that all the wood for sale on this site was legally and carefully hand-harvested (in small quantities) for resale via a long-standing commercial permit with the Forest Service. All the wood was killed in the 1870s era forest fire, and therefore was dead long before it was ever harvested. 

As a result, all the wood sold by Bone Mountain Bristlecone is dry. Bristlecone is a very hard pine, and is extremely dense because the tree is very slow-growing in harsh conditions. It is fairly pitchy and has a wonderful smell when worked. Despite being dead for over 130 years, the wood is very aromatic and will smell even better when worked. Even after many years, an unsealed bristlecone piece will have a wonderful aroma, which can be enhanced or rejuvenated with a light sanding. It is a very stable wood that has a beautiful color when worked.

 

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