To find giants, travel north


To see the real giants of the forest, one has to travel north to the Olympic Peninsula. And so it was this past weekend, when my wife, Sibyl, and I met up with our friends Charlie and Susy to visit Olympic National Park, north of Hoquiam, Wash.

There in the Quinault Rain Forest you can find the Valley of the Rainforest Giants, where huge conifers tower above the forest floor. The Quinalt Valley boasts six champion conifer trees, recognized by the National Forestry Association as the largest living specimens of their species. Only northern California’s redwoods and sequoias grow larger.

We visited two of these behemoths: the world’s largest western redcedar and the world’s largest Sitka spruce (pictured above). The western redcedar is a 15-minute hike from North Shore Road on Lake Quinalt. The tree measures 63.5 feet in circumference and is 174 feet tall. The inside is rotted out and forms nice protection from the rain and wind. This tree is also Washington state’s largest.

The Sitka spruce is on South Shore Road, an easy five-minute walk from the trailhead. This tree stands 191 feet tall and has a circumference of 55.5 feet. It’s estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. Oregon at one time held title to the world’s largest spruce, the 700-year-old Klootchy Creek Giant, near Seaside, but it fell to high winds in the Great Coastal Gale of 2007.

Other big trees in the Valley of the Rainforest Giants are the yellow cedar and western hemlock, considered the largest in the United States, and the Douglas-fir and mountain hemlock, thought to be the largest in the world.

To grow trees this large, you need rich, deep soils and plenty of rain. The Olympic Peninsula has plenty of both, especially the latter. Though found around the world, the largest temperate rainforests are located in North America. The Pacific Northwest is home to about two-thirds of all temperate rainforests in the world. These forests live up to their name, with an average of about 12 feet of rainfall annually. If you’re there during the wet season, dress appropriately!

For the forest,
Paul Barnum


9755 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 210        
Portland, OR 97225        
Phone: 971-673-2944        
Fax: 971-673-2946

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