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Exploring the Olympic Peninsula – part three

Washington State: day six

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Of rainforests and beaches

In the Hoh Rainforest

With the body clock adjusted at last (it had taken longer than on similar trips in the past - a sign of age perhaps?) I slept well in our Forks motel. Just the same, we were up early and on our way. We had noticed yesterday that the Thriftway supermarket at the southern edge of town has a small coffee shop attached so we went there for breakfast (good coffee but only pre-packed pastries, unless you fancy a doughnut which I didn't - too sweet for my taste). Then it was into the store to pick up a few things for lunch as we planned to picnic today.

The Hoh Rainforest

Our first destination was the Hoh Rainforest, about 30 miles from Forks. The Hoh had been on my wish list since first starting to plan this trip. It is an unspoiled swathe of temperate rainforest in an area otherwise somewhat altered by logging activity (you can see the difference in the landscape as you drive back into the national park along the Hoh Valley Road). The Pacific coast was once dominated by temperate rainforest from south-eastern Alaska to the central coast of California but today few stretches remain – the Hoh is one of the most pristine and is considered one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforest in the United States.

On the Hall of Mosses trail

The Hoh is also well-known, as might be expected of a rainforest, for high levels of precipitation – it has an annual rainfall of 140 to 170 inches (or 12 to 14 feet – 355 to 432 centimetres) and while much of this falls in the winter, even in summer dry days are rare. But we lucked out and had a rare dry day for our visit, even seeing the sun towards the end of our time here.

There are several trails to choose from, with the shortest being a .1 mile accessible loop and the longest an all day hike. We opted for the most popular, the .8 mile Hall of Mosses trail. Having arrived early we had the first part of this to ourselves, and I wouldn't describe it as crowded even towards the end of the walk when some did catch and overtake us (owing to a combination of stopping to take a ridiculous number of photos, and my enforced slowness as ever on this trip).

On the trail

And the walk is so worth doing, and worth doing slowly to absorb the special atmosphere exuded by these majestic ancient trees. Every possible shade of green seems to be on display here, from khaki mosses to lime-green young maple leaves.

Taft Creek

At the start of the path you cross a pool in Taft Creek, before making a short climb among the tall Douglas fir trees and spruces. After that climb, the trail is easy going. Information boards along the way describe the main features of the rainforest, such as the nursery logs - fallen trunks that provide the nutrients for new trees to grow, resulting in 'colonnades' of trees perfectly aligned with each other. But while it was interesting to learn about what we were seeing, it is the greenness and mysteriousness that I will remember long after any facts may be forgotten.

Shades of green

Perhaps the most beautiful spot of all was the grove of big leaf maples reached down a short spur off the main path – do take this if following this trail as you miss a lot by skipping it.


Big leaf maple grove

After our walk we drove back down the Hoh valley, stopping to take photos at a beautiful reflective pond and for coffee at the Hard Rain café - a rather cool little place we had spotted on our way up the valley.

Pool in the Hoh valley

Hard Rain Café

Ruby Beach

Returning to Hwy 101 we continued our journey south and after a few miles were by the sea again in one of the coastal strips of the national park. We stopped at the northernmost beach on this stretch, Ruby Beach. The beach lies some distance below the parking lot, reached by a fairly steep path and a scramble over large tree trunks. I decided to pass on this so I stopped at the first viewpoint on the descent to take photos from there, while Chris continued to the beach alone. Even so, it was a magnificent spot for photos.

Ruby Beach

More beaches

After Ruby Beach we stopped again at the rather boringly named Beach 4 (one in a string of six similarly named beaches - you would think someone could have had the imagination to come up with some more interesting nomenclature than simply numbering them!). Here we ate our picnic and took a few photos from the viewpoint. We could see a couple of whales some distance out to sea - too far though to get any sort of photo.

Beach 4

We also stopped more briefly at Kalaloch Beach, but by this point the photogenic sea stacks found further north had petered out so we didn't linger long.

Kalaloch Beach

Lake Quinault


So it was back in the car and off to our final destination for the day, Lake Quinault, where we had reserved a room at the Rain Forest Resort on the lake shore. Our room (bottom left in this photo) had a wonderful view of the lake from its picture window so as soon as we had checked in and dropped our bags in the room we wandered down to the edge of the water to take a few photos.




Lake Quinault

We then followed the little nature trail that leads to the resort's pride and joy - the 'World's largest spruce tree' (apparently - we must take their word for that). It is certainly an impressive size, and consequently rather hard to photograph - although Chris's presence in the first photo will give you a sense of the scale.

'World's largest spruce tree'


We had dinner that evening in the resort's restaurant, the Salmon House (there are no other options unless you want to drive to the Lake Quinault Lodge, a mile or so away). The food was solid rather than spectacular but the views of the lake lovely.

We had a drink afterwards in the attached bar and I managed to photograph a visiting hummingbird as well as the colours as the sun set behind the mountain on the far side of the lake.



Lake Quinault sunset

Posted by ToonSarah 06:34 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises lakes beaches trees national_park olympic_peninsula washington_state Comments (17)

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