Vijaya Pratap walks through the Hoh Rainforest and is charmed by the club moss that give the woods an ethereal look
Seattle to Olympic National Park is a beautiful journey, both on water and on land. We take a ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Our SUV is parked along with many other cars in the lower deck. A 35-minute ride passes in a jiffy, gazing at the endless ocean and the outline of gorgeous mountains. We drive through this beautiful island and reach Port Angeles, an interesting town. On the way to our hotel I see a board that reads “Iyengar Yoga” and I feel proud of my country’s contribution to world health. Staying in Port Angeles, it is much easier to travel and explore the beauties of the vast Olympic National Park.
On the first day, we drive 28 km. (from Port Angeles) to lake Crescent, nestled in the northern foothills of the Olympic Mountains. This lake is over eight miles long and is one of Washington State’s deepest lakes. The pristine waters of the deep, glacially carved lake make a stunning spectacle as they reflect the vanishing sun at dusk.
Olympic National Park is an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site. Its unique character begins with ancient trees that took root 200 to even 1,000 years ago. From nature walks to snowshoeing, there is much to do in the Olympic year-round. Visitors enjoy forest walks, bicycling, boating, fishing, water sports, camping and many other activities. On the second day, we opt for a nature walk in the temperate Hoh Rainforest.
We enter the forest while a friendly guide warmly welcomes us with many instructions and an equal number of smiles. We go to the Hoh Rainforest visitor centre and choose a trail. Along this 2 km. loop trail is a lush variety of plants, representing different ages and stages of forest affected by the wandering power of the Hoh River. I am fascinated by the club moss hanging from the trees giving it an ethereal look. The atmosphere of the rain forest is so fertile that some plants thrive on air. Dining on moisture and nutrients from rain and windborne particles, club moss and licorice fern fasten to trunks and branches but do not harm their hosts.
We see mostly coniferous trees, some of them as tall as 300 ft. Mosses coat the bark of these trees and drip down from their branches in green, moist tendrils. As we keep walking, we find two big trees in the clearing which are Douglas-firs. Western Hemlocks are all around us. 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.
The Hoh River is born high on glacier-capped Mount Olympus and descends 7,000 ft. to the Pacific Ocean, fed by snowmelt and rain along the way. The glaciers, at their point of origin, grind rock into glacial flour, colouring the river a milky, slate blue. I sit on the bank of the river for long, admiring its beauty, and cup my hands and drink pure, cool water to my heart’s content.
I sit there and ponder over the wonders of nature. Immense fallen conifers are swept downriver and create logjams and quiet pools for salmon. Their spawned out carcasses feed dozens of aquatic and forest animals and fertilize the soil, bringing riches from the ocean to the forest. In turn, the forest lends stability to the river by preventing massive sediment flushing. Mountain, river, forest, ocean — each part of this eco-system depends on the other, a tapestry woven together as one naturally functioning unit.
We resume our walk through the trail and come across Taft Creek. The clear waters of this creek come from springs. We stop and gaze at the stream and the silence around makes us forget the whole world. Amidst such serene surroundings, the rapid flow of thoughts intuitively slows down.
Reflecting on the beauty and the serenity of this wonderful place, I pick up a tuft of club moss and gaze at it before gently putting it back on the ground. The lovely time I spent in the beautiful rainforest is what I bring back as souvenir.