Forests are fun.
To experience a forest, you have to leave your sofa and your refrigerator behind, and get yourself outdoors. This is part of the rationale behind the federal government’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, to get people off their duffs and into their hiking shoes. You’re being encouraged to go out and have fun!
If you’ve been to Montana’s Yellowstone National Park, Maine’s Acadia National Park, or California’s Yosemite National Park, you’ve seen America at its best. Hiking in Yosemite is one of America’s most sublime experiences, but any excursion – whether a difficult hike or an easy stroll – is a treat if there are trees to walk among, to commune with, to marvel at, and, yes, to hug. Trees are the world’s largest and oldest living organisms, and they can have magnetic personalities. Whether it’s the redwoods of Yosemite or the hemlocks of Glacier National Park, forests are a big part of why Americans love their national parks.
Although 56 percent of all forested land in the U.S. is privately owned, the nation still has many public forests. Most notable are the National Forests, which began in California as an effort to protect a watershed from ranching and mining interests. Today there are 155 National Forests in 42 states, plus one in Puerto Rico, comprising almost 190 million acres – 8.5 percent of the nation’s total land area. Most National Forests are open for hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing, camping, kayaking, hiking, and bicycling. Those who enjoy these activities also boost the local economies with their visits.
You don’t have to go to a National Forest to spend quality time with trees. Most cities have urban forests. A city park isn’t much of a park unless it has trees. They shade playgrounds for children, paths for runners and cyclists, and picnic areas. The squirrels and birds that live in city parks may be the only wildlife that some urban children see.
Another way to have fun with trees is to grow them yourself. A couple of apple, peach or fig trees, syrup-producing maples, citrus trees in California or Florida, or a small grove of conifers may not mature in one season like a flower or vegetable garden, but they can give you a lot of satisfaction without a lot of maintenance. Your personal arboretum can be more than a source of pleasure for you; it will likely be enjoyed for generations to come.