Day 4: Two Faces of Olympic Park

There’s no other way to begin a vacation day than with fun. So that’s what we did. We walked across the street to “The Place” and had a breakfast that any Denny’s customer would recognize. But it was quick and filling and set us up for the day.

Our exploration of the Olympic National Park would take us to two different locations today, but mainly, we wanted to discover the Hoh Rain Forest. It’s hard to know what a “rain forest” is when it is 65 degrees and sunny, but it was not hard to imagine what a rainy day would involve. We drove south from Forks and east toward the interior of the great Olympic Peninsula. The roads were winding and narrow; trees growing right up next to the asphalt, as thick as patches of grass. And on the trees – monstrous trees, I might add, were mighty branches all laden with temperate rain forest moss. On every one. The rain forest here averages 120 inches of rain a year. The place is definitely ripe for growing mosses. The look reminds me of some fairy tale or Disney movie. It’s absolutely fascinating.

We found the Visitor Center, got our map and chose the Hall of Moss Trail for our hiking pleasure. Not surprisingly, because it was Saturday, there were a few more visitors in the park today than we encountered the past two days. There were lots of families with children, both behaved and not; foreign visitors; and chatty visitors. But, we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. We were able to speed up or slow down to accommodate our need for silence in the woods.

Seeing nature in the raw is always so inspiring and completely mystifying. There were so many species of plants; hundred year old trees growing on top of fallen two or three hundred year old trees; mosses and lichens growing on every branch and trunk; roots tangled every which way; and water traveling under and over whatever was in its way.

I couldn’t help but think of the profound interconnection of all of life in such a place. Somehow we have forgotten how necessary this is for our survival.

The sun shone through the dense canopy of leaves and mosses, dappling its golden magic wherever a crack would allow it entrance. I was entranced and could hardly make myself move fast enough to make it farther along the trail. The rain forest in sunshine was a delight to behold. Tiny birds flitted among the leaves; tiny fish darted through the stream; and tiny wild flowers graced the forest floor, along with what seemed like an endless variety of ferns. It was beautiful. The silence in the middle of the forest was certainly the sound of grace.

Refreshed, yet tired from our hike, we elected to head back to Kalaloch to see the beauty of the coastline in this vivid sun. I have to admit, I was greedy for some pictures of the ocean in the sunlight.

But, as we approached the coast the sunlight bowed and retreated, leaving only low lying clouds and mists. We did stop at Ruby Beach, however, and I couldn’t help but capture its distinct character in some photos. Even though it was gray, it was extraordinarily beautiful. It was COLD walking down to the beach today, which caused me to move quickly and return to the car promptly. At Kalaloch it was much the same. And only an hour and a half before we were perspiring in the sunlit woods and peeling off our light jackets.

By this time it was after 4:00 and we were getting a little “hangry.” We purchased a bottled coffee and a candy bar from the Kalaloch mini mart and headed back toward Forks to find some dinner. Unfortunately, this day that was so anticipated and so longed for, simply escaped the planning stage. I forgot to bring water, snacks, or even sunscreen. (Thankfully, we always keep some bug spray in the car.)

We drove back through the thick coastal fog into the sunlight and back into fog again before we reached Forks, listening all the while to “The Pioneers.”

“Sully’s Hamburgers” was our destination. Because we were so hungry we ordered way too much and ate way too much, but every bite was satisfying. I took my after dinner three mile walk through town and halfway into the country and back again before checking in for the evening to write.

What a day! Two different climates; two different ecosystems; two different experiences of sacred beauty; but only one park. Such is the stunning nature of The Olympic National Park. And, there is so much more to discover.