Rain shells? check
Rain pants? check
Waterproof boots? check
Rain hats? check
Okay, we’re ready for the rain forest. September isn’t nearly the rainiest month, January holds the honor with 60 inches. September only averages approx 20 inches of rainfall. Accordingly, it rained on us throughout our several hour visit today. And on our way down the twenty-mile paved road back to Highway 101.
The road in and out closely follows Hoh River, the waterway bringing down glacial snowmelt all summer from a couple of thousand feet high above. The river bed is rock-strewn and full of glacial-ground rock silt, a distinct gray mud where you expect to see brown.
Along the way is a small pull-out with parking to view the large Sitka spruce. How about huge? It is 12.5 feet across at chest height, over 270 feet tall, and 550 years old. This isn’t the only big tree in Hoh rain forest, but it is one of the biggest. Other trees, they say, grow to 300 feet tall, while the average height for spruce in Hoh is 220 feet.
We walked the three shortest trails for a combined few miles. The fourth trail is 17.5 miles each way so we saved it for another day. Oh, and the elevation change is 3,500 feet, climbing upward toward Mt Olympus. We saw a lot of overnight backpackers exiting and entering the trail, so we let them have it to themselves.
Everything grows here, and it grows anywhere it wants and with relish. This is the coziest phone booth we’ve seen. It reminded Jim of houses he and his family saw in Norway many years ago, but it seems like they had cultivated theirs with insulating soil on the roof. This phone booth just provides a damp surface for stuff to start, and it takes off.
The Hall of Moss Trail was aptly named. It is higher above the river than the Spruce Trail and supports more mature forest. One area is the maple grove. The mosses like the strong maples because more mosses can ride on the limbs without downing the tree.
Opportunistic growing things attach to anything in the rain forest. Nurse logs are as important here as anywhere, but the effect seems more dramatic in Hoh because the logs are so long and so encouraging to great starts. There’s no question whether a bunch of trees will take root, but only which ones will win. The first ones to set their roots down past the nurse log and into soil are the winners. Hundreds of years later the nurse log moulders away and the piggyback riders, mature trees now, stand above the ground.
Ephipytes, or air plants, don’t rob their host of water or nutrients but gather what they need from the air. And so it is with these Club mosses hanging from the limbs. They might become heavy enough to pull down a limb or tree, but they otherwise are just hanging out. And sometimes they hang out in the prettiest places.
We weren’t sure we would get to visit Hoh Rain Forest, and are glad we did. Even if it rained almost the entire time. It did stop while we sat at the picnic table and ate lunch. We wouldn’t have been surprised nor would we have minded if the rain continued unabated — the rain is what makes it a rain forest.