PrefaceI wrote a small book about trees. One of the chapters in that book described visiting an old-growth forest in Maryland. The book was well received, and I got many heartfelt e-mails and letters, but nearly all of my readers wanted to know the same thing: how to get to that old-growth forest.I knew how they felt because it had taken me, too, a long time to find directions to an old-growth forest in the East. For many years I didn’t even bother asking for directions, because when I inquired about ancient, uncut forests in the East I was told there were none left. Like many other tree lovers, I visited the redwood and the sequoia groves in the West, and although they were a wondrous consolation, they were not an image of what my home ground ever was, or could be.I had read the accounts written by early explorers describing the majestic and diverse eastern forests stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. I had seen the photographs of the unbelievably large white oaks, bald cypress, longleaf pines, tulip poplars, and hemlocks—most of them taken either just before or just after the trees were cut. I longed to experience what the eastern forest was like in its original state.Not until the 1990s did the first stories of eastern old growth reach me. In that decade, a dedicated group of forest lovers started publishing their findings: there was old growth in the East. Although the estimates of how much were depressingly low—less than one half of one percent of the great eastern forest was still old growth—the fact that it existed at all brought joy to my heart. The remaining fragments were scattered far and wide, but they existed, and I could see them.Most residents of the eastern United States never get to see an old-growth forest. They think perhaps the forests are too far away, or they lack directions. Like the forests, the directions are scattered far and wide.In order to write this book, I visited one old-growth forest in each state east of the Mississippi River—twenty-six states in all. The forests are all open to the public, and in these pages I tell you how to get there and what you will find when you arrive. Some of the forests are pristine; some are in distress. Some are an easy drive, others a difficult hike or paddle. Some are vast; others cover just a few acres. I hope the book will be an enjoyable adventure even if you never leave your couch. But if, like my earlier readers, you are eager to experience the ancients for yourself, this book can guide you to them.
Joan Maloof (Author)
Joan Maloof is a professor of biology and environmental studies at Salisbury University and the author of Teaching the Trees: Lessons from the Forest. She lives in Quantico, Maryland.