One thing I miss about living on the road is all the gorgeous places I got to visit. The deserts, the mountains, the shores, the forests – they’re all beautiful in their own way, and I loved being able to wander about and explore them all. What I’ve seen of Seattle is nice and all, for a city, but there’s just nothing like being out in nature, away from all the noise and hustle and bustle.

This past weekend, my partner and I headed out to Hoh Rainforest, in Olympic National Park. She’d set aside the time from work, and I haven’t quite resumed shooting people yet after lockdown, so we got to spend four nights cut off from civilization. I’d been wanting to go there for awhile now, so I was excited, and the five-hour drive to the campsite just couldn’t go fast enough.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

We arrived in the early afternoon on a Thursday, to make sure we could find a spot. Friday and Saturday nights are usually the busiest for campgrounds, and we wanted to be there from Thursday until Monday.

As soon as we saw this spot, I knew it was the one we’d choose. It was large enough for my tent, had a beautiful backdrop, and was about as secluded and separated from the rest of the campground as one could hope, given that it’s a campground.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

I made this panorama just to give a sense of how beautifully surrounded we were at our campsite.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

And this is a closer view of the area behind our spot. It was amazing, and everything I expected a temperate rainforest would be.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

The branches of just about all the trees were simply dripping with mosses.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

But just as we finished setting up the campsite, the rain began. It started as a light drizzle, but quickly turned into a downpour. Now, you might think, “well, duh, rainforest”, but as it happens, this is actually the dry season, and rain is relatively infrequent this time of year.

We just hit it lucky, I guess, because the rain continued all night, all day the next day, and through the night again on Friday night. We kept ourselves busy inside the tent, but by Saturday morning I was ready to get out and explore. I’d seen all I needed of the rain part, now I wanted to see the forest.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

The Hoh Rainforest campground area has three basic nature trails, and signs everywhere admonish visitors to stay on the trails. We opted to do the Hall of Mosses first, then the Spruce Nature Trail, and save the Hoh River Trail for the next day. The Hall of Mosses was just spectacular.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

And it is aptly named…

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

Some of the trees weren’t covered in moss, and some of them reached soaring heights.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

The clouds and mists varied during our walk, and sometimes seemed ready to enshroud us like a cool, wet blanket. At least the rain didn’t return, and we were grateful for that.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

There were many large nursery trees, a part of the area’s ecological succession. When a large old tree falls, new trees grow up from it, wrapping their roots around the old tree’s trunk and extracting its nutrients. It’s fascinating recycling, something I’d never seen before.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

I’m sure this tree has an interesting story to tell. It clearly bent and continued growing for some time, before eventually (and relatively recently) cracking, presumably under its own weight. There was a myriad of trees in sundry unusual poses, and each one we saw was more intriguing than the last.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

“Baby, is it just me or does that….?”

“It’s not just you.”

“Ok then. Just checking.”

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

Everything dripped with water that played in the light, it was gorgeous.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

And the light! Oh, the light! The deeper into the Hall of Mosses we got, the more dramatic the light became!

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

The canopy was thick in places, broken in others, enough to support hardwood understory as well as ferns and the mosses for which the Hall is named.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

We were fortunate, as it turns out, to visit during and just after a summer rain. The forest positively sparkled in the patches of sunlight.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

And the evaporation of the rain into the mist lent the rays of sunlight an almost spiritual quality throughout the forest.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

I could have stopped in a thousand places and taken a thousand photos of the sunlight playing through the trees in the mist.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

But this spot! This spot right here was breathtaking!

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

We finished up the Hall of Mosses, and then walked the Spruce Nature Trail, a somewhat longer walk, but still fairly short. What struck me most about both trails was the distinct lack of birds. Foot traffic was beginning to get surprisingly heavy, even for a weekend in a popular National Forest, so that may account for it.

After that we drove back to our campsite, where we made a most excellent dinner which we roasted over the campfire. A cruise around the campground confirmed that we had indeed snagged the best campsite in the whole place. It’s site 80 on the C loop, if you’re interested.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

On Sunday, we walked a bit of the Hoh River Trail. That trail goes for far more miles than I can physically walk, but we thought we’d walk a bit of it, until we tired, and then return.

There’s a spot called “One Square Inch of Silence“, a place that sound recording specialist Gordon Hempton says is the quietest, least noise polluted spot in the United States. I’m willing to assume he took his measurements on a day when there weren’t many visitors, but I wanted to visit the spot, if I could make it that far. It was far further than I should walk, and more than I usually can, but I was feeling pretty good, and I really wanted to go, so off we went.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

The trail starts mostly flat and fairly easy as it runs along the river, and from time to time there are small peeks at the Olympic Mountains in the center of the peninsula.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA
Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

Eventually the trail gets hilly, and in the distance I got one look at Mount Olympus itself with one of its glaciers. I took this shot with my birding lens.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

At that distance, the mist and haze were working against me, and it took a bit of massaging of the image to get that photo. But this little creek was up close and personal, and there was no mist or haze to worry about.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

Between the creek and the waterfall, I was aching to do some Creek Shoots, but I hear it’s bad form to ask complete strangers to get naked in front of a dozen or more other complete strangers. It’d be a perfect spot for a Creek Shoot, though.

Mt. Tom Creek Waterfall, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

We eventually found the side trail leading to the One Square Inch of Silence, and reached the spot, I think,  where the trail abruptly ended. I never saw a marker of any kind, and the side trail was very far up the main trail for me. I was so excited I hadn’t really considered the walk back, something I try always to keep in mind.

The round-trip was way, way, beyond what I should ever be walking on a trail, and I was paying dearly for it before I even got back. Nearly a week later and I’m still feeling it. I’m glad I did it, but I won’t do it again, for certain. With my spine wrecked as it is, I usually try to keep the “hiking” to a few hundred meters or less in one day, if at all possible. More than that and I’m just asking to spend several days in bed. But sometimes it’s worth paying that price, and this was one of those occasions.

We packed up camp and left the next day, and despite excellent weather for birding here at home since then, I’ve not dared to get out and go. I’m worried my legs will give out someplace where I’ll have trouble getting home, or even back to the car. I did manage to add two birds to my life-lists while we were there; the Pacific Wren and the Canada Jay. The wren hung around our campsite from the time it stopped raining until we left, and the Canada Jays we saw were right as we got back to the parking lot after the river trail. I was in a lot of pain, and very tired, and those shots are pretty much crap, but identifiable. So there’s that. It’s a pretty common species here, I understand, so I’ll get some nice shots sometime soon, I’m sure.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA

All in all it was a lovely weekend, spent in a beautiful rainforest, and I imagine we’ll be visiting again sometime in the future. If you ever get the chance to spend a few days in the Hoh Rainforest, I highly recommend it.

Related Posts

LouFCD

Louis Shackleton is an intimate portraiture artist and wildlife photographer formerly based in Wilmington, NC. After 3 years of traveling the continent in his 2001 VW Passat, he's now settled in Seattle, Washington.

Head on over to the About page to read more about him and his work.

More About Me
Like it? Share it!

Privacy Preference Center