… without dogs and cats. Taken on a dark rainy afternoon on the Sol Duc Falls Trail in Olympic National Park.
I was hiking the Hoh River Trail in the rain when I walked past an open area and was struck by this explosion of green, a young moss-draped tree arching in all directions. There were so many different shapes and sizes and textures of green, clover and maples and moss and ferns and the large trees beyond, all different ways life has adapted to live in this damp and verdant forest. If I could hike in only one type of terrain, it would be the forest, nothing restores my spirit like a walk in the woods.
I was first introduced to Langston Hughes by a poem posted on a neighborhood tree less than a year prior so I was delighted when I visited the Hoh Rain Forest to see they had placed signs with poetry along the Hall of Mosses Trail, with one of those poems being Langston Hughes’ “Snail”, placed before this tree that arched from one side of the trail to the other. As you can see from the puddle in the trail I finally got my rain in the Hoh Rain Forest after years of trying, and you can see from the picture below that the sun came out at times too.
Dreaming you go,
Weather and rose
Is all you know.
Weather and rose
Is all you see,
“Snail” by Langston Hughes
I hiked a section of the Wonderland Trail on my last full day in Mount Rainier National Park. I was exhausted from hiking on previous days with my heavy telephoto lens, and though I left it behind on this hike, the trail was an uphill slog through the forest and it was raining heavily. Making matters worse, most of the camera gear I hike with is old with no weather-sealing. Plus I discovered the hard way that my trusty old hiking boots were no longer waterproof. The clouds were so low I couldn’t even see the mountain when I reached a clearing up top, so my spirits were a little low.
On the hike back down I made myself stop and adjust my attitude. I love hiking in forests and decided my little camera was coming out in the rain, and if it died, it died. I started photographing bark and moss and was having a good time and couldn’t resist a picture of this tree that reminded me of an Olmec head (I always think of the one Mr. Burns gives Bart on the Simpsons).
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5
My sacred ground isn’t a remarkable place. People hike past it without so much as a second glance. But from the first time I hiked the Mill Hill Loop Trail at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, there’s a spot on the trail that’s always stopped me in my tracks. After hiking through some open forest, there is a sudden, immediate transition from the sunlight of the open trail into the darkness of moss-draped firs. Little light makes its way past the canopy and the thick moss seems to dampen all sound.
This little section of moss and firs isn’t impressive for the size of the trees (toothpicks compared to the old growth and second growth giants elsewhere in the Northwest) nor for the size of the forest (it lasts just a short while before the trail enters more open forest). It’s a little pocket out of place compared to the surrounding woods at this refuge of reclaimed farmland. A throwback to another time and another place.
Stepping into this part of the forest almost always brings a smile to my face, brightens my mood, quickens my pace but then slows my steps, to look up, to breathe in, to listen, to be. I’ve seen a coyote slink off up a forested hill. Laughed at sliding hoofprints of deer where they must have slid coming down a muddy slope. Compared the size of the deer prints next to much larker elk prints. Further up the trail I’ve seen deer, elk, quail, wood ducks, although sasquatch has yet eluded me. But mostly I love this part of the forest not for what I see but for what I feel.
There’s only been one time in my life when this enchanted forest couldn’t lift a darkest mood, but that’s a story for another day. The picture above was taken on a rainy day in April. A little earlier on the trail I had been photographing my favorite creature in the Northwest, the rough-skinned newt, but that too is a story for another day.