By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern
There are still extraordinary places left on earth where old-growth trees have been climbing hundreds of feet to the sky for centuries, safely distanced from the watchful eye of development and industry. Here, rare wildlife flourishes, like it did in the breathtaking and doubt-inspiring accounts of Lewis and Clark’s first expeditions, off the beaten path of destinations and away from typical tourists.
However, stands of ancient trees have also stood among us, sometimes largely unnoticed, as recreationalists trek by with eyes focused on the trail, river or rock ledge.
Whether you’d rather explore deep within the wilderness where few venture, or enjoy a simple walk in the outdoors, there are beautiful, old-growth forests waiting to be visited. Put one of these areas on your list of places to explore, and who knows, maybe the next Champion Big Tree is waiting to be discovered.
1. Tongass National Forest, Alaska
Tongass National Forest is home to some of the oldest trees on earth — many of them dating back more than 800 years. Spruce, cedar and western hemlock trees stretch more than 200 feet into the sky and reach nearly 12 feet in diameter at chest level. These impressive trees mark the section of southeast Alaska that makes up 30 percent of the temperate rainforests on earth and one of the last great marvels of biodiversity and natural abundance. Here, some of the rarest wildlife on earth abounds — bald eagles, grizzly bears, Alexander Archipelago wolves, the Goshawk and the Marbled Murrelet. Ancient glaciers feed the Icy Straight, a winding river that delivers three times as much essential organic carbon to the ocean than the Amazon River does, supporting lush marine life from krill to sea lions, whales and a range of salmon species. Exploring the Tongass can be a short hike or a deep wilderness trek, but the time to visit is now, as the forest’s timber harvesting plan threatens the remaining old-growth trees and the health of the wildlife habitat.