One thing can be said for all those early American loggers: they were thorough. From 950 million acres of virgin forests that stretched from the east coast to the Mississippi when the first Europeans arrived, they managed to do away with almost all of it. Almost.
While they’re not as quite as impressive as those otherworldly giant cedars and redwoods out west, there are stands of old growth from Maine, Ontario, the Adiondack wilderness, Virginia and Texas to here in North Carolina at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest: all accessible to the public.
Kids love superlatives. Visiting an old growth forest has lots of them: biggest, oldest, tallest, last. It’s a small-scale adventure: a little hiking, a little science and history, built-in bragging rights: “we saw the oldest, tallest, coolest trees in (insert name of your state/region).”
We took Ms. M to Joyce Kilmer for a New Year’s hike a few years back and the trail was easy enough even for her (four at the time, I’d say).
American Forests has a registry of the “biggest in species” trees all over the US with an online database you can search by zipcode to find the biggest trees near you (note that these are single trees, not forests). So you can do a quick after-school drive to see a “champion” tree or a weekend drive/hike to a see whole forest of them.
One more superlative: these unassuming bristlecone pines in Utah and California are the longest-growing organisms on earth (one was just discovered that was over 4,600 years old!).