Saturday, June 3, 2017

Discover Hoh Rain Forest and Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park

Mountains, seashore, rainforest.

It's hard to imagine that one park can encompass such geographical diversity. But that's what attracts visitors to Olympic National Park in Washington state. In addition to its national park status, this million-acre park has been designated as both a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.

After spending several days in the mountainous regions of the park, we headed out to explore old-growth rainforests.
Fall colors just beginning to show in Olympic National Park
From the Hoh River in Olympic National Park, we headed to Kalaloch Lodge on the Washington state coast, where we would spend a couple of nights in order to explore more waterfalls and scenery in the Hoh Rain Forest section of the park.
Hoh Rain Forest is one of three ecological regions of
Olympic National Park.
This is a temperate (not tropical) rain forest, which means it is shady and cooler in temperature but still immensely verdant. Among the thick foliage—a tangle of low-hanging drooping branches curving upward in search of sunlight—we saw many different kinds of mosses in various shades of green.
The greenness is simply incredible.

Thick ferns along the path
Tree trunks, fallen branches, stumps, and ground are covered in yellow-green, emerald green, blackish-green, and silvery green plant life. Staggered ferns covered the ground, pencil tree trunks grew upward, and vines and mosses wrapped around other plants in a symbiotic relationship known as plants growing on plants.

Everywhere we see the cycle of nature: growth, death, replenishing. Fallen trees provide food for the next generation of plants and for forest critters that chew on decaying wood.
Our hiking goal was the waterfall on Hoh River Trail. Surprisingly, few folks walking on the trail seemed to know about it, but after more than two hours we found the waterfall. At the water’s edge, I splashed my hands to check the temperature—it was quite cool for early September.

The elusive waterfall
The weather was damp, with rain drops dripping from tree branches long after actual rain had stopped. We took our time to enjoy and photograph the immense variety of flora, including 24 species of plants found nowhere else in the world. The path was not too difficult, just long and messy with enough diversions to slow our pace.
On the return we stopped just off the trail, found “natural” seats (fallen tree trunks) and scarfed down our packed lunches. As for wildlife, we only saw one elk in the woods, although surely there were more staying out of sight.

I perched on a tree trunk to eat my sandwich.
After leaving the rain forest and heading down the Washington coast later that day, we stopped at Ruby Beach, so-called because tiny bits of garnet crystals in the sand give it a rosy glow in sunlight. At this scenic beach just off U.S. 101, the shore broadened into a wide expanse of glistening sand as the afternoon tide retreated from the rugged coastline.
Amazing sea stacks at Ruby Beach
Children were climbing on large sea stacks, rock formations in the water that shelter a variety of plant and animal life like crabs, anemones, mussels, and barnacles. Tidal pools also host animals tough and adaptable enough to live in the harsh conditions. The smooth sand, just dampened by the receding tide, provided amazing reflections that are among our favorite photographs.

Beautiful reflections in the outgoing tide
Back at Kalaloch Lodge cute bunny rabbits scampering around the backyard of our cabin made us chuckle. The beach just below the cliff on which the cabin was perched invited us to take a stroll.
Glorious sunset at Kalaloch Beach
Sea breezes  and the setting sun created lovely striations of pink, yellow, and blue in the sky above the water—the perfect ending to another day of discovery.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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