The Hoh rainforest is an ancient, almost enchanted place, green and mysterious. Some of its trees have stood here for over a thousand years, long before European explorers came to this continent. Draped with mosses and ferns they seem to stand outside time; a haven of stillness in an ever-shifting world.
The Pacific coast of America was once dominated by temperate rainforest. It stretched from south-eastern Alaska to the central coast of California but today few tracts remain. One of the most pristine of these is the Hoh in the Olympic National Park (Washington State).
It has an average annual rainfall of 140 inches (3.55 metres) and while much of this falls in the winter, even in summer dry days are rare. But we lucked out; we had a rare dry day for our visit, even seeing the sun towards the end of our time here.
Hall of Mosses trail
With limited time we opted for the most popular of several trails, the Hall of Mosses. Having arrived early we had the first part of this to ourselves; only towards the end of the walk did some people catch and overtake us, probably because we had stopped to take a ridiculous number of photos!
But in any case this walk is worth doing slowly to absorb the special atmosphere exuded by these majestic ancient trees. Every possible shade of green seems to be on display here, from khaki mosses to lime-green young maple leaves.
At the start of the path we crossed a pool in Taft Creek, before making a short climb among the tall Douglas fir trees and spruces.
After that climb, the trail was easy going. Information boards along the way described the main features of the rainforest, such as the nursery logs. These fallen trunks provide the nutrients for new trees to grow, resulting in ‘colonnades’ of trees perfectly aligned with each other. But while it was interesting to learn about what we were seeing, it is the greenness and mysteriousness that I will remember long after any facts may be forgotten.
Perhaps the most beautiful spot of all was the grove of big leaf maples, reached down a short spur off the main path. Standing here felt not dissimilar to standing in a great cathedral or mosque, surrounded by columns reaching high into the ‘roof’ overhead. And it engendered a similar sense of awe.
Here ‘now’ and ‘then’ are much the same; this year that has seemed so long to us will be little more than a moment for these ancient trees.
[For this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge Amy suggested that we consider how this year has been different from previous ones in so many ways, giving our perspective on now vs then. I thought it might be interesting instead to focus on a place where the two are not so very different. I hope it will help us remember that when this pandemic has passed, the world will still be out there, waiting to be discovered…]
I visited Washington State in 2017