Finding the Forest in the Trees

Finding the Forest in the Trees

Anyone with a sense of adventure will tell you take the scenic route. All too often we find ourselves in a rush to get from point A to point B. Minor inconveniences put major dampers on our daily life and we forget to enjoy the little things. For those of us who live along the West Coast a well known secret of pure, scenic travel is US Highway 101. Over 1500 miles of historic highway that will take you from Los Angeles, California to Port Angeles, Washington and beyond. If you look at it on a map you’ll see that it runs fairly north to south until you get to the top. Right before that eastward bank the road follows the Hoh River, and although there are signs pointing to the entrance, the path to the Hoh Rainforest is a rather unassuming one.   

a scene along the hall of mosses trail, branches with dangling vibrant green mosses dip into a quiet pool of water where equally vibrant green algae can be seen just under the water's surface.

In a state known for its perpetual lush green, the Hoh, pronounced Hō, Rainforest stands proud. Averaging 10.5 ft (3.2m) of rain a year the outcome is a dazzling spectacle of vibrant green on green. You would be hard pressed to be there on a day it didn’t rain, and the morning our family visited was no different. In our excitement to get out the door we had found we left our smallest’s rain jacket at camp an hour away. Which is another thing you should know, there are no short cuts in and out of the Hoh Rainforest unless you camp there. The road to the visitor center winds along the Hoh River where you will see a beautiful aquamarine water that is synonymous with western Washington rivers. After a quick round robin of jackets, the oldest giving up his outer shell to the middle who passed along his to the youngest, we were set.  Here we set out on picking our first trail. While the Hoh River Trail is a 17.3 mile (27.8 KM) walk along the river valley before you ascend Blue Glacier and Mount Olympus, we decided some of the smaller trails were just our speed. We opted to take the Hall of Mosses and The Spruce trail which were perfect for little legs and aging bones alike.

A scene from early on the Hall of Mosses trail in the Hoh Rainforest, a damp scene, thick forest with a gravelly trail and a shocking variety of greens, from deep forest green to vibrant neon-lime.

There aren’t a lot of times you see a word so beautifully personified to its description as the word canopy to the looming top of the Hoh. Even on its sunniest days, direct sunlight struggles to reach the floor beneath. It turned out that the shuffle of rain jackets wasn’t a necessity either. Once we were on the trail the steady down poor was all but nil. Words don’t do it justice and as I found out later, neither do pictures from a phone.  I knew walking that I would have to bring my absolute A game to embroider it.

Vibrant greens cast against deep dark browns, a damp forest scene where it's all beautiful but nothing specific catches the eye.

So much of it is filed under the ‘See to believe’ category. There isn’t enough floss in the world to cover the variant of green found in the Hoh, but I gave it an honest effort. The deeper you go the greener it gets, a literal fern gully. And, oh the ferns, forever reaching outward in hope to catch light.  

a portrait mode photo of ferns upclose and the blurred forest behind them.  Vibrant greens with dark brown trees in the background, the ferns curl at the top, round and round, like something from a fairy tale.

The Hall of Mosses is just that. A gentle walk among very old trees draped in green and brown hanging impossibly low.

a child in a blue jacket holds her fathers hand as they walk on a damp gravelly path through a rainforest of vibrant greens and stark browns.

It’s so easy to get lost in what is above that you may miss the wonders of what is inching along beneath. Our nature princess spotted it first, slowly working its way across the bed in vibrant yellow, a banana slug.

a banana slug in it's vibrant yellow lays in contrast to the brown and green of the forest floor.

Although local legend says it will end in good fortune and riches, we chose not to kiss it.  

Three fourths of the way through the Spruce Trail you are sequestered along a portion of the river, quietly raging along, carving its own path through serenity.

a teenager squats next to the Hoh River. A wet scene, there is driftwood, rocks, and aquamarine water in the foreground.  The midground is multiple shades of green, topped with a thick layer of fog that hides the mountains beyond.

It would have been easy just to stay here through the day, reflecting and embracing the shear luck of the moment.

When we did continue, we happened upon a ranger further up the trail. She put her finger to her mouth to give a universal ‘shhhhh’. When we were within whisper range she pointed and softly said, “elk”.

Within a thick forest scene, an elk cow's head can be seen just above the thick brush, near a mossy tree trunk.

Though it was a good distance away from the trail we stood in awe of the size of it. An indescribable way to finish a wonder filled walk. And so, while I couldn’t see the forest, mountains or sky through the trees, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Get out there, get lost, and stitch your next adventure.

A damp forest scene, a gravelly path curves into the forest, laden with vibrant green underbrush and wet mossy trees.

- Nate & Rosanna

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