Hoh Rainforest gets more annual rainfall than anywhere in the US, 140-170 inches. To get some perspective, I googled how much average rain Colorado Springs gets in a year. 16 inches. We’ve been to tropical rainforests before so I was expecting big leaves, mosquitos, a variety of wildlife, and everything feeling damp and wet. Hoh is actually a coniferous rainforest, as opposed to a tropical rainforest, so think evergreen trees and not big huge elephant ear leaves. There weren’t very many mosquitos, we didn’t hear or see any small critters including birds, and it didn’t feel as moist as I would have thought. I had narrowed our hiking options down to 4 trails so we went to find out more at the Visitor Center. We learned that fishing in the area was closed due to “low salmon returns.”
We decided to start with the Hall of Mosses, a one mile walk through 200′ tall trees literally covered in long moss, some over a foot long. There was just so much growth. We didn’t see sunlight for much of our hikes as it just doesn’t reach the forest floor. There would be felled trees on the ground with other new trees’ roots wrapped around the whole tree, while 3 leafed clover and moss grew on everything. The dirt beneath our feet was dry and some of the lowest plants were actually dusty. It was yellow jacket season too and you could hear them buzzing around as they circled you, but luckily no stings today.
After we were sufficiently awed, we opted to take the Hoh River Trail for 3 miles to a waterfall. Like many areas here, we hiked most of the way under the shade of the tree canopy forest and then would pop out for a view of the river. Hoh Rainforest is also home of the largest herd of Roosevelt elk in the country. (No, I have no idea what kind of elk we have in CO. I’m pretty sure they’re all the same, but I didn’t look it up.) The ranger had told us that no one had seen an elk yet today.
We had taken our lunch break about a mile in, along the river and lounged around just enjoying the view and a bit saddened that we weren’t fishing. I looked up and could see a rocky bank a ways upriver and spotted some large brown dots. Sure enough, they were elk bedded down in the sun also enjoying the river views. We continued our hike but would detour to pop out and see them any chance there was an opening to see the river, getting closer each time. The next time we saw them, they were actually beginning to wade across the river. We watched them walk in all the way up past their bellies. They circled up, about 20 cows, 5 calves, and 2 bulls (one of whom was bugling) and just stood in the river apparently enjoying the cool water for probably 10 minutes before they finally crossed over to the other side and into the trees out of sight.
We continued our hike until we reached the Mineral Creek waterfall. When we left our campsite that morning, it was 63 and overcast so we had dressed in long sleeves and brought extra layers. About 5 miles out of camp, the sun came up and the temps rose to 80. Even though we were in the shade of the forest, by the time we reached the falls, we were hot. It wasn’t muggy, but you could still feel the humidity making it feel hotter than it was. I tried to take off my shoes to soak my feet at the base of the falls, but Mark wanted to go up and get closer to the top for a better view.
Every hike takes us longer than expected, with so much to see and also taking turns composing shots with the new camera. By now, we were just ready to head home and finished up the return hike pretty quickly. Since I didn’t specifically mention it, yes, there were blackberries and huckleberries throughout the forest on both hikes. I also learned a new edible berry: the thimbleberry. It looks kinda like a raspberry, bright red and segmented, but when you pick it, it is hollow like a thimble. The taste is so unique, equally sweet and tart but dry. We ate dinner and decided to head back to a different beach. This one is on the Quinault Indian reservation and is called First Beach. Dogs are welcome, even off leash. It was a sandy beach, with nearby rocks just begging to be photographed. Again there was driftlogs and everywhere you looked, crab bits washed onto shore. Legs, shells, whole Dungeness crabs. Surprisingly Molly didn’t seem interested in them. She loved the sand! She would run as fast as she could between Mark and I. I think she was having trouble walking on the river rocks at the beach last night. She and I played along the shore while Mark sat and enjoyed watching us through his camera lens. We stayed until just before sunset, as the fog wasn’t going to let us in on the colorful show. I keep thinking every day we see something unique and spectacular and then the next day is something else unique and spectacular. I feel like I keep using the same words over and over: stunning, awesome, breathtaking, spectacular, beautiful. Washington is all of those things, and more than words can express. I feel small and in awe of the majesty and creativity of God the creator.