Visitors to Paradise Valley pass for two miles through a "ghost forest" of bleached tree trunks.
This silver forest as it is commonly called was at one time almost a pure stand of Alaska yellow cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis.) with trees ranging up to over two hundred years of age. About forty years ago a ground fire ran through the stand scorching the thin bark and killing the trees but not burning them.
The bard dried and fell off and the trees through forty years of storm and sun have weathered to a wonderful silver gray that gives a surface as soft as satin that could not be matched by any painter.
The yellow cedar growing at sea level in Southern Alaska is not a hard wood but at an elevation of four thousand feet on Mount Rainier the growth was so slow that a tree one foot in diameter is a hundred and fifty years old and the wood is much harder, taking a fine polish. Wonderful tables and other lobby furniture made from it are in Paradise Inn.
Round logs from the silver forest were used in constructing the Inn itself and the mammoth fireplaces are fed a cord of wood a day from the down timber of the same forest.
There is an interesting story vouched for by old settlers as to the origin of the fire. Blue berries and red huckleberries grown in profusion in the high forests and the region of the silver forest has long been a mecca for berry-pickers both white and red.
About forty years ago a certain party had spent a long day gathering the rich fruit, and in the evening had enough to load down a pack-horse. No sooner was the packing done however than the horse made the mistake of tramping on a nest of yellowjackets. Things began to happen immediately with the result that the berries were quickly redistributed over the landscape. The unfortunate pickers in their enthusiasm to burn out the hornets nest made a larger fire than they could control and the durability of the yellow cedar has given us these ghost trees - to some depressing, to others beautiful.
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