Saturday, September 18, 2010 Rain early and late; sunny midday; 65 degrees
The best explanation of the Hoh and Quinault Rain Forests comes directly from a trail map:
"Mild winters, cool summers, and up to 12 feet of annual precipitation produce the giant conifers that dominate this rain forest, one of the most spectacular examples of temperate rain forest in the world.
Bigleaf maple and vine maple host an abundance of epiphytes (plants growing upon other plants) that give the rain forest its characteristic look and ethereal quality. A plethora of mosses, ferns and plants compete for space on the forest floor; grazing elk keep the understory open. Dead and downed trees decay slowly and support new life as "nurselogs." The eternal cycle of life and death is strikingly apparent in this magnificent forest community."
This morning the rain forest was drenched in sunshine. Its rays sparkled off the drops of water and lit up the trees, ferns, and mosses. The Spruce Nature Trail we took wound its way through the forest. Walking where everything is carpeted in mosses, super-sized trees hover overhead, and ferns are as tall as our shoulders was an eerie experience indeed. We followed the path to the Hoh River which is birthed by the glaciers, high on the side of Mt. Olympus. Its bed is very wide, but the milky blue water meanders and splits, leaving gravel bars in the middle while fallen conifers create logjams. With mountains, forests, and coastal beaches all in the same park, we think Olympic NP must be one-of-a-kind.
Leaving the rain forest behind, we headed to the Kalaloch (Klay-lock) beaches. We reached Ruby Beach first which is identical to Rialto Beach: a rocky shoreline with multiple seastacks offshore. When we stopped at Beach Four to eat lunch, we observed from an overlook that it is sandy like Second Beach. We never found out how or why rocky and sandy beaches alternate up and down the coast.
Our last stop in Olympic NP was the Quinault Rain Forest. Doing so was redundant as it is a smaller version of the Hoh. We walked Kestner Trail which led to the old homestead of the Kestners who were some of the first settlers in the area. It is in disrepair, and renovations have only recently begun.
When we first planned our trip, we expected to spend two days in Olympic NP, but its great diversity required four in order to begin to experience it. Our only regret is that we never saw Mt. Olympus. It stayed hidden in its cloudy shroud.
Today's trivia: Washington is the home of Starbucks coffee, but they have their competition. Where we have ice cream stands at home, here they have what we're calling coffee stands, some in towns, but others out in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. But someone must be drinking their coffee or they wouldn't be there, right?
TODAY'S ROUTE: US 101S, entering the Hoh Rain Forest, returning to US 101S to The Quinault Rain Forest, returning to US 101S to Aberdeen, then US 12 to Elma