Saturday, September 17, 2016

a Pacific Northwest road trip, Part V: The Hoh Rain Forest

I'm not sure if a place greener than the Hoh Rain Forest exists on Earth. From the moment you take a left off Highway 101 in northwestern Washington to drive deep into the heart of the temperate rain forest, green (and brown) becomes the color of the landscape. 

Most people are shocked to learn that Washington State, and the Pacific Northwest as a matter of fact, has a rain forest. Most people, when they hear the word rain forest, conjure up images of the Amazon. The rain forest in Washington is nothing like the rain forest in South America, and for a good reason. The Hoh Rain Forest is a temperate rain forest and the Amazon Rain Forest is a tropical one. 

Temperate rain forests are called such because of the climate the live in. Same for tropical. While I've never been to Brazil or South America, I wager the climate is very, very different than Washington State's climate. Washington has a temperate climate. That means it has mild winters and a lot of rainfall (the Hoh gets 12 - 14 feet of annual rain fall). The trees of a temperate rain forest are tall and seasonal. The other really cool thing about temperate rain forests is the ages of the trees. While trees in a tropical rain forest are typically between the ages of 50 - 100 years old, trees in a temperate rain forest are often 500 - 1,000 years old! 

Crazy cool, huh? 

This map below shows the world's temperate rain forests:
There aren't many of them. How lucky we are to live (both in Washington State and Taiwan-- look at that map again! Our scoots to Sheipa take us high into the mountains and into the beautiful temperate rain forest of Taiwan.) in a place with such a spectacular rain forest for us to explore!

Over summer, we drove to the Hoh while we were camping. The drive from Mora Campgrounds to the rain forest was supposed to take 45 minutes, however, it ended up taking much longer, but only because we got stuck in three road construction spots. Usually, the drive into the forest is scenic and somewhat lonely. This is, after all, literally in the middle of nowhere. It takes anyone a long time to reach the Hoh from anywhere. 

Instead of a peaceful drive through towering trees, our drive was full of traffic jams and loud construction equipment. 

Ce la vie.

Once we passed the final construction spot, the route returned to the idyllic one I remembered from our last trip here a few years ago. 
When we came before-- which was years ago, and we must have been 20 years old at the time-- we didn't realize you had to pay to park. 

Since we only had our debit cards, which the ranger would not accept, we ended up striking a deal. We would only stay 15 minutes and then turn right back around and leave. I think the ranger felt bad for us. After all, it was quite a trek to get there. Sean ended up running a 2 mile loop through the rain forest. This was long before my running days, so I ended up going to the bathroom. Suffice it to say, we left pretty dang disappointed and swore to return one day and do the Hoh right. 

This time, we brought plenty of cash so we could actually park and explore some trails. Funny enough, though, the park is completely different now and rangers can actually take debit card payments. We had to laugh a little at that turn of events. 

We parked and consulted the entrance sign. 

There are two short trails and one really long one that requires overnight camping in the bush. We trekked down the Hall of Mosses trail, which is a .8 mile loop, and the Spruce Nature Trail, which is a 1.2 mile loop. We want to return one day and hike the Hoh River Trail, which one-way to Blue Glacier is 18 miles.  

Before we do that, though, we will need to invest in some serious hike-in camping gear. 

Our walks, while short, were still spectacular. 

The murky blue Hoh River, which is a 50 mile river that is born in the mountains and ends in the Pacific Ocean, runs along side the Spruce Nature Trail. The river front is wilderness at its finest. The Hall of Mosses has beautiful old growth trees and hungry elk, birds, and chipmunks. 

It's a shame that so many people who visit Washington State never even make it over to the Olympic Peninsula, let alone this gem of a rain forest tucked away in the northwestern corner of the state. 

This, after all, is truly the Pacific Northwest at its best.


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