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Where are the pathless forests, in which we can roam and interact with the environment?

 
Posts: 69
Location: Eastern Great Lakes lowlands, zone 4/5
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I may have been spoiled. City slicker turned forester, I spent a year in vast wilderness learning the ropes (and the chainsaws, wildlife management, that sort of thing). More acres than I could walk of sparsely trailed forests were a hop and a skip out the door.

That was years ago, and since then I've lived in rust belt cities and their outskirts. Despite being in relatively well-forested parts of the world - northeast USA hours away from megacities - I find it surprisingly difficult to visit a pathless forest without getting in my car. What gives? Anyone have a different experience, or is my expectation out of tune with reality?

I expect, probably incorrectly, that in some cities known for their nature, a pathless forest is somewhere in long-walking or biking distance. In reality, even cities and towns filled with trees and streams seem to have few forests in walking distance and all of those intensely managed. I can understand that: trails and an expectation of no bushwhacking or bushcrafting is reasonable considering how many people have access and how quickly the forest could lose its forest qualities. Staying on the trail makes sure the surroundings of the trail are pleasant for all. I mostly support those policies, but I also see great value in what's more common among State Forests and Wildlife Management Areas: sparse trails and the liberty to roam and even to interact with the environment (make fires, camp, craft though with only dead fallen wood) within reasonable boundaries (no fires, camping, or crapping near water or trails; leave no trace). Alas, I've yet to find those areas within walking distance, so maybe I need to readjust my housing or my wilderness priorities!

Why am I looking for a pathless forest? A nostalgia for adventure perhaps, but also as a learning tool. The adventure comes from wandering (/ orienteering) and being somewhat isolated, more likely to have a close encounter with a wild animal than with another human. The learning is even more of a hurdle when it comes to accessibility, as I'm referring to learning bushcraft. Wandering to find a particular plant or branch or spot, crafting tools or even a small fire and camp. Again I can understand the need for Leave No Trace, but it seems hard to find even a woodland to practice even very light-on-the-land bushcraft.

Why am I looking for one without having to get in a car? Well, I bet y'all can sympathize with that. On this front, one solution may be better biking on country roads.

What are your experiences? Do you need to live way out in the boonies, a long haul from hanging out in a lively town, to have access to such a pathless forest? Do you adapt your own wilderness practices to benefit from forest bathing and practice bushcraft and orienteering skills with limited 'wilderness'? As usual I s'pose it's "all about the balance" - has anyone honed in on such a balance?
 
Posts: 1755
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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It would take me at least an hour and a half to make it to a forest and I don't think that's weird at all. Trees aren't a thing on the plains.
 
pollinator
Posts: 435
Location: Denmark 57N
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There is no pathless forest in the entire country here, no wild land at all. It is something I miss from Scotland where you can go where you like and there are areas where there are no paths, no roads no people!
 
Posts: 37
Location: NE AZ
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It's a good 45 minute drive to the forest from here. However there are vast open range lands around me and I can wander anywhere the cows do. Unfortunately those open ranges are as likely to be populated with meth heads as wild life, so take mace...
 
master steward
Posts: 4320
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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About 3/4 of the land in Utah allegedly belongs to the federal or state governments. More than that in Nevada. Near many cities, there is a sharp division between farm/city and the badlands.

One of my fields is on the exact boundary between civilization and public wildlands.  I could walk eastward for 35 miles before encountering a  paved road. I worry sometimes about being eaten by a cougar while working in that field.

All of my fields, scattered across 7 communities,  have been within 0 to 3 miles of public wildlands. That's a nice walking distance. One of my fields in Nevada is 1/2 mile in any direction from public badlands. That is a relic of the land grants given to build the continental railroad. If you want a good mix of private/public land, that's a great place to be.

The same pattern applies in much of Utah/Nevada. The most agronomic land was claimed for farms or cities, and the rest was left as wildlands. For example, there is a area of wildlands that penetrates to within 1/2 mile of downtown Salt Lake City. It is also immediately adjacent to the state capitol building. Extensive wildlands begin less than 2 miles from city center. It astonishes me: The contrast between the bustle of the city, and the isolation of the wildlands. I was startled last time I visited Salt Lake, because I encountered someone else on a wildlands trail.
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The pathless forest, 7 miles from downtown
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Enjoying moss and ferns in the pathless forest
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A badlands forest
 
pollinator
Posts: 2902
Location: Toronto, Ontario
325
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High Park in Toronto, Ontario has a fair bit of woodland to it, but it is managed as some of the last remaining oak savannah in the area, so the grassy bits look like unmowed parkland. Where it's denser, especially in the hilly parts, it's largely impassible, so I guess that counts.

The forested ravines you see throughout parts of the city are also pathless where it's impassible by foot. There are at least three parkland river valleys that are grassy and mowed as parks in some of the floodplain, but the amount of manicured park in them is dwarfed by the area which is not served by paths.

Of course, the only pathless forests that you will find are those that are being carefully kept free of anything but trees and arborial animals. Large browsing herbivores make paths, and when in the wilderness, I will follow those if there isn't a human-cut path available, for as long as they take me in the direction I want to go.

You don't need untouched virgin wildland to interact with the environment. That's just letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Deer use the Don Valley as a wildlife corridor. I have been a 5 minute walk and 10 minute subway ride from the heart of downtown, sitting on a retaining wall on the valley's east wall, smoking and drinking tall boys with my buddies of a summer night, watching a deer or three descend to the river for water. They were on the other side of a highway, three lanes in each direction, but real and healthy and alive.

I am not going to say we don't need more trackless forests (or at least forest not criss-crossed by pavement, or even fire roads), but I am going to say that I think establishing such wildlife corridors as I describe would have a much greater impact environmentally, and on the collective psyche of city dwellers.

-CK
 
pollinator
Posts: 3241
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I guess I am fortunate, I have 7000 acres in front of my house with only one discontinued road intersecting it, and 12,000 acres behind my house. Obviously I do not own that much land, but between what I own, and what my family owns, I can walk from one end of town, to the other and never step on a strangers land. It is only about 6 miles as the crow flies, but still not a short hike.

The interesting thing is, I was just lamenting the other day that it is getting harder and harder to find old growth forest, but considering this thread, I guess asking for forest that has never been harvested is asking too much. Incidentally, I did find some. It was on the corner of our farm, the farthest point away from any road, and located in a ravine. It is just not worth trying to get in there, and getting the wood out.

Thanks for making me realize, maybe things are not so bad here after all! (LOL)


Some pictures of that Old Growth Forest, about 1.5 miles from the nearest road.



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pollinator
Posts: 579
Location: Southern Oregon
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I would think that if you want to be able to access a pathless forest, maybe buy land in a forest, preferably with government land bordering it. I would say that most areas are designed to separate urban/suburban areas from forests, partially to protect the forests, and partially because many urban/suburban people are afraid of pathless forests. Out here in the west, you also hear a lot about the urban wildland interface, and how urban encroachment onto wildland is largely to blame for fires, and the subsequent property damage. I don't really agree with a lot of what is said there, but I do see it affecting urban planning.
 
Posts: 23
Location: North Island - New Zealand
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Skandi Rogers wrote:There is no pathless forest in the entire country here, no wild land at all. It is something I miss from Scotland where you can go where you like and there are areas where there are no paths, no roads no people!



Not sure if indeed my entry of photos taken mid May 2019 qualifies for "PATHLESS" Forest ?   On the outskirts of Rotorua ( New Zealand ) they have a small Redwood Forest.. that one can wander.. There are some tracks - but one is at liberty to just wander off and experience the wonderful serenity of it all.
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Posts: 399
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
85
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We're lucky in that regard. Several of our major capital cities have large National Parks/Reserves nearby.

Sydney is surrounded by them. An hours train trip or 1.5 hours drive will lead you to the Blue Mountains where, in a couple of hours walk, you can quite literally drink the water out of the many streams without purification.

Add a few more hours of trackless walking and you're in wilderness.

If people like sandy beaches, less time via train or bus - some of the smaller ones are empty even in summer during midweek.

Most of Sydney Harbour is skirted by public reserves, some quite rugged with native flora, where anyone can take in the vistas, fish, swim or picnic in the inlets.

A lot of European immigrants regularly venture up to the State owned radiata pine plantations to pick mushrooms when they're in season too.

For those living in the regional centres, there's an abundance of trackless bush to explore.

Most of these parks and reserves perform several functions other than habitat and species protection - importantly, in a dry continent, they protect and ensure clean water catchments for dams that supply drinking water.
 
pollinator
Posts: 8302
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I've done some hiking in the boreal forest of  Canada. Outside of being eaten by a bear, the most dangerous thing is losing the path. I got stuck out one night when I was 19, in a black spruce forest North of Lake Superior. It got dark and I spent several hours listing for trucks on the Trans Canada highway and then slowly inching my way toward that sound until becoming disoriented again. Then I would listen for more trucks and start walking again. Finally at about 4 a.m., I reached the path. What a relief. The path is a glorious thing.
 
F Agricola
Posts: 399
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I've done some hiking in the boreal forest of  Canada. Outside of being eaten by a bear, the most dangerous thing is losing the path. I got stuck out one night when I was 19, in a black spruce forest North of Lake Superior. It got dark and I spent several hours listing for trucks on the Trans Canada highway and then slowly inching my way toward that sound until becoming disoriented again. Then I would listen for more trucks and start walking again. Finally at about 4 a.m., I reached the path. What a relief. The path is a glorious thing.



Tsk, tsk, tsk Mr H; it was people like you that kept us busy in S&R. Most of the time people would get lost in winter when it was raining and cold, or, in summer when it was bloody hot with bushfires. We'd get called out to find them - don't think we ever did one in nice weather except during practice weekends!

A map, compass and knowing how to use them works wonders.
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Yeah, or knowing where you started, having at least an idea of what the land around looks like, with landmarks, and remembering that in the northern hemisphere, moss will grow preferentially on the northern side of a tree trunk.

I think keeping track of where you are and the terrain, with landmarks, if possible, is of more utility than a map and compass. Though I suppose a map might simplify things for tasks like judging distance and rate of travel over days.

-CK
 
Stacy Witscher
pollinator
Posts: 579
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F Agricola - my niece does S & R, and when I starting foraging, she reminded me to look up, as apparently that how many become lost, looking for edibles.
 
gardener
Posts: 1199
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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fifty long distance trails

Many amazing & beautiful remote areas have a trail to get there. Some have requirements to stay on the trail, some don't. The Appalachian Trail runs along the east coast from Georgia to Maine & connects with some of the other long distance trails. Depending on season & location (distance from parking mostly) it's not uncommon to go days or even weeks without seeing another soul.

The national forest service has huge tracts of forested land too. Much of that is open to the public.

Done more than my fair share of orienteering & bushwhacking. Also more than my fair share of trail building. Was involved with S&R for a few years too. I truly appreciate having a nice trail to help access wilderness.

Please, please, please leave no trace.







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Dale Hodgins
pollinator
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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F Agricola wrote:

Dale Hodgins wrote:I've done some hiking in the boreal forest of  Canada. Outside of being eaten by a bear, the most dangerous thing is losing the path. I got stuck out one night when I was 19, in a black spruce forest North of Lake Superior. It got dark and I spent several hours listing for trucks on the Trans Canada highway and then slowly inching my way toward that sound until becoming disoriented again. Then I would listen for more trucks and start walking again. Finally at about 4 a.m., I reached the path. What a relief. The path is a glorious thing.



Tsk, tsk, tsk Mr H; it was people like you that kept us busy in S&R. Most of the time people would get lost in winter when it was raining and cold, or, in summer when it was bloody hot with bushfires. We'd get called out to find them - don't think we ever did one in nice weather except during practice weekends!

A map, compass and knowing how to use them works wonders.



There was never any danger of me becoming a search-and-rescue case. Because I went without a phone in 1984, and no one knew that I was gone. No family within 500 miles. As for landmarks, it was a pretty flat black spruce forest. They all look pretty much alike in broad daylight. At night, good luck.

Remembering this, when I took my daughter hiking in the Yukon, I chose spots where we could get a long way from the vehicle, but still see it because we were walking up giant mounds of glacial deposits. We kept going and going until we found a lot of caribou poop. And I decided that where there are caribou there are likely to be cougars and bears, so we headed back. We also started early in the a.m. .
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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To answer the question another way: burning.

-CK
 
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