One of my very favorite places on earth is the Tongass National Forest. It is the largest national forest in the US at 16.7 million acres and is also the largest intact temperate rain forest ecosystem in the world. A visit to the Tongass, located in coastal SE Alaska is pure magic. The forest is dominated by huge stands of Sitka Spruce, Western Red Cedar, and Western Hemlock. Though logging has been an important influence on the Tongass in the past, large portions of the forest are now protected by the Roadless Rule. In addition to being home to three Alaska Native nations, the Tongass is a vital part of the cycle of salmon species in Alaska. The Tongass filters and cleans the abundant rain water as it flows into rivers and then the oceans. The many rivers are vital habitat for young salmon, which then migrate to the oceans, and after several years feeding, return to the rivers to spawn and die. Their bodies then return nutrients to the Tongass in a beautiful never ending cycle.
If you ever get a chance to visit Southeast Alaska, I highly recommend a hike through the Tongass, where you can enjoy the unparalleled natural beauty, breath the fresh air, and dip your toes into icy streams that lead to dramatic rocky shorelines. It is a true gem.