The Olympic National Park has two types of forests amongst its many types of ecosystems. The first is the rainforest and the second is the lowland forest. We visited the Hoh Rainforest first in August 2012.
From Highway 101 we traveled up Upper Hoh Road for 19 miles to get to the visitor’s center. The road running along the Hoh River was beautiful and you could see the mountains in the distance. Once we arrived at the visitor center it was a necessity to get my passport stamped to prove my visit. We then started out on the Spruce Nature Trail, a 1.2-mile hike that lead through the moss laden trees and eventually brought us down to the Hoh River. The water was blue but still murky we were told due to the rocks breaking up underneath from the force of the river and the mud was very grey. We also saw a river otter swimming upstream!
Further along on the trail we saw a black-tailed deer eating in the forest. We then took the Hall of Mosses Trail, or as Blake called it the Hall of Moses. The trail is a short .8 miles and leads through mossy trees and fallen nurse logs, which are named so because they provide nutrients to the other trees. We also found extremely large trees lined up in a “colonnade” and they stand on huge roots called stilts because that is where their nurse log used to be.
The moss drapes from the trees in large masses and it really illustrates how the park does get over 12 feet of rain a year. The National Geographic will tell you that sometimes even the air looks green.
We discovered the lowland forest at the Sol Duc Falls. It was a .8-mile hike on the Sol Duc Falls Trail to get to the waterfalls. The trail was one of my favorites of the trip with the creeks and streams running through the trees. In the distance you can hear the thunder of the falls. There is also an old shelter cabin before reaching the falls that reminded me of my summer at Philmont in New Mexico.
When we got to the falls I was surprised to see that you stand above the falls as oppose to looking up at them from below. They roar over the rocks in three jet streams into a deep crevice. We spent quite a bit of time here wandering the trail and walking out onto the rocks in the creek being careful not to slip so we wouldn’t get swept away in the current.
On our way back down, we stopped at the Sol Duc Hot Springs where they were celebrating their 100th anniversary. Maybe we caught it on a busy day, but the three hot spring pools and the one swimming pool were packed with people. The water seemed dirty and the smell of sulfur was quite strong. The hot water felt really nice and relaxing, but I couldn’t get over the smell and so after 20 minutes we got out. We had paid $12.25 each to get in and get our bracelet. For a 20 minute stay, I’d say that’s pretty expensive, but I’m happy to say that I at least tried my first hot spring.
After the hot springs we ventured past Lake Crescent to get to Port Angeles. Stunning even on a cloudy day! The lake felt very European to me with the mountains surrounding it and then plummeting right in. Maybe next time I’ll stop for a little bit and take it all in.