Nothing can quite prepare you for the Hoh Rainforest. I had been doing quite a bit of reading and research on the area as soon as Bob said we could make it as far north as Olympic National Park this summer. Our first time in a rainforest was a few years ago when we camped outside the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island, Canada. We were camping out of our Jeep that trip and our accommodations were limited to our tent, and it rained…and rained…and rained. Appropriate right - after all, we were in a rainforest. The trails through that forest were mostly over boardwalks, the downed trees were so large. Whoever had built them had Bob’s utter respect as we traversed along the trail.
Fast forward a few years and we now had the opportunity to visit another of the rainforests of Olympic National Park. We had spent a few miles the week before on the Quinalt trails, but this week we would be traveling to the Hoh. Many days had been spent looking over the trails and images trying to decide which ones would be a good fit for us. We spent some time at the Hoh Visitor Center talking with the Ranger and getting a feel for the park. Over worked and under staffed we didn’t find the information we were looking for. We wanted old growth of course, but we also wanted solitude to hear the trees talking to us. We decided to take the trails that led off from the Visitor Center as this was going to just be our day of getting a “taste” of the area. We had three days here, and we would make the most of them.
The first trail was absolutely filled with beautiful specimens of Sitka spruce. We bypassed the Ranger led tour group of forty or so that were at the entrance of the trail, and quickly made our way ahead of them. At this point getting the tripod out was not really an option. There were SO MANY people. But as we ventured ahead of the crowd the quiet quickly enveloped us. Big trees, cool green everywhere you looked and my favorite hiking partner ahead of me…..it’s love.
We decided after the short trail to venture up the Hoh River Trail. This is an overnight backpacking trail, if you have all the necessary equipment and a permit. For us it way to maybe get away from the crowds and experience the true quiet of the forest. We did about 8 miles round trip, and it was beautiful of course, but not quiet. We returned to the Rainforest Hostel for a good nights sleep.
Day 3 / Back to The Hoh!!
We decided to take the advice of both the Ranger at the visitor center, Jimmy at the Rainforest Hostel, and our own research and take a “not very traveled – you better be prepared” trail into the Hoh.
We packed up our gear and did our chores at the Hostel and then made the 15 mile drive down a dusty gravel forest road to get to the trails beginning. Our intentions were to do the long hike into the South Fork of the Hoh, and then have a quick dinner and head back for the bus in Ocean City. We had been warned that we might not see another hiker the entire trip - EXACTLY - what we were looking for, and hopefully our Jeep and belongings would be ok at the trailhead.
The Vivid Green
Like I mentioned at the top, nothing really prepares you for the green of the rainforest. We lived our lives for 30+ years in the brown of the desert. Before that we had spent our years in Hawaii, South Carolina and Florida. All areas filled with green. The year in New York you can’t really count the colors. The green fills my spirit and heart.
We put our packs on, filled with snacks and water, and started down the trail. The South Fork of the Hoh River Trail is an in/and out that traverses along the river. I wish I could capture the quiet, the green and the beauty. I remember back a few years when Pantone chose a shade of green for their “Color of the Year”. It was called greenery - and when you are standing in the midst of all this beauty it is hard to imagine how they choose just one shade. I lingered around the very first path down the trail and stood in awe of all the vivid hues of green. How would you every choose, a shade- a color of green- here. The massive roots entangled the paths and after a mile or so I realized that when the huge roots were crossing the trail – STOP – and look around. Sure enough a massive old growth Sitka spuce was close by. Wearing bifocals, I spend a lot of my time hiking looking down, and this gentle reminder was exactly the prompt I needed to just pause - look up and all around - and enjoy the beauty. The squirrels alerted each other as we passed by, and the river below us provided a constant voice in the background.
Old growth trees fall, and provide the “nursery” for those to come. They gather their energy and allow the little folk to rise and grow. This forest is where we witness the most perfect example of how the trees support each other, and how we should in turn support those around us.
As the hike continues we found ourselves climbing higher and higher up the mountain side, leaving the river far below us and that is when the quiet of the forest engulfed us. We separated many times over the next few hours, each lost in our own thoughts, and then found our way back to each others side.