Inger and Jeff Latreille
A Whole Other World
~Friday, October 7, 2022~
Other than a few guys fishing, it’s just us and 2 other RVer’s down at Allen’s Bar. Maybe by day’s end, our dispersed campground on the Hoh River will entertain a few more people as we hear this is quite the popular place when the weather’s good. And man, are we lucking out with that.
We’re so excited to finally experience the ever popular Hoh Rain Forest (also the Gateway to Mount Olympus). Having heard and read so much about it, we had high expectations to which it did not disappoint.
Initially, Google Maps put the rainforest at 1 hr. 20 minutes from our campground with only 21 miles to get there. Unless you’re a slug, that would seem impossible, right? Well, it was. About 10 minutes into our drive, it was updated to a 35-minute drive. I guess it was slow to respond to our updated location. Of course we’re happier with the correction! But then, we had a real hold up. When we arrived at the entrance station, there were about 7 cars in front of us. Not bad. But when the first car took 10 minutes to pass through, we knew we were stuck in a line with one inquisitive tourist, or a chatty Kathy or loquacious Larry manning the station. With the second car taking just as long, that’s when we knew something else was going on. Finally, a park employee came up to each car in line explaining the delay which was due to a power outage and in turn taking forever to process entrance fees. They really didn’t seem to have a good alternative plan in place to keep things moving. What happened to good ‘ol manual credit card machines as a worthy backup? National Park Pass holders like us should have been in a totally separate line to keep things moving….there’s nothing to process with those. In the end, we had a 30-minute delay, about half of what Google originally predicted anyway.
Once we arrived, the beautiful, lush setting made a welcome distraction to our delay. Our interest was mainly in the trail offerings, so we paid a visit to the small visitor center just off the parking lot. They had a few maps and a sandwich board indicating the top trails in the park. The tiny bookstore was closed due to the power outage. With what light we DID have in the visitor center, we were able to read up on what makes Olympic National Park so special.
Achieving national park status in 1938, it was meant to preserve the finest example of primeval forest in the Pacific Northwest (some of these trees are anywhere between 200 to 1,000 years old with their multi-layered canopies offering a habitat for a myriad of animals). But the park also provides permanent protection for the herd of native Roosevelt elk, the largest of the four surviving species of elk in North America. Maybe we’ll have the privilege of spotting one. With these preservation efforts, the park boundary to Mount Olympus looks much like it did 5,000 years ago. Olympic NP is a gift of ocean, rain, river, and mountains, all in one. In the rain forest particularly, moisture can range anywhere from 40 to 240 inches annually (and we know how much rain Washington gets!!) That’s an insane amount of moisture! Mild winters along with cool summers produce giant conifers that dominate this rain forest, such as Sitka Spruce, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock. Hoh is one of the most spectacular examples of temperate rain forest in the world, and we’re here to experience it. The trees are enhanced by big leaf maples and vine maples that play host to an abundance of epiphytes (plants growing upon other plants like moss for example), all giving the rainforest its unique character.
Enhancing the forest floor are mosses, ferns and other plants that compete for light and space. The Roosevelt Elk also assists in keeping the understory open.
We took the Hall of Mosses Trail first ( a loop trail .8 miles long), crossing a few ponds with the purest looking water shimmering in the light presenting a variety of green water plants underneath its surface. We also took the Spruce Nature Loop (about 1-½ miles) which packs a lot of variety as well and a great place to find “nurse logs” (fallen trees that provide a place for new seedlings to grow).
From young to old, you can see a colonnade of new trees from these rotting logs. The trail also winds past the Hoh River with its unique pale blue glacial water, making its way to the Pacific. Our last trail, only hiking about a mile of it, was the Hoh River Trail. This route is about 18 miles long to the Blue Glacier. It is here that backpackers register for their permit if they plan on hiking the entire way, with an elevation gain of 3,700 feet. There were also signs noting cougar activity in the area as they love to hang out in dense underbrush and clear rocky overlooks, enhancing their thrill of stalking. Another reason to carry bear spray in this region. Bears, mountain lions and elk…..there’s no getting around a chance encounter while we are in their home. When hiking, it’s just best to always carry some form of defense.
What a treat to see the only rainforest awarded the distinction of being a World Heritage Site as well as a Biosphere Reserve, labeled by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Now for the Amazon!!!