Long ago a large tree fell over beside the Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rain Forest, forming a nurse log for younger trees to grow on. Some of those younger trees fell too and the park staff cut them with chain saws, they were probably blocking the trail, and behind them in the clearing you can see a tree that has naturally broken partway up the trunk. This will provide even more light into the clearing, allowing different types of plants and trees to grow before old giants eventually rise up again.
Seeing Han Solo getting frozen in carbonite broke my heart as a child but it saved my life as an adult. I was hiking along the Hoh River Trail, reveling in the rain in the rain forest, when I saw this unusual formation in an old tree. I stepped back when I recognized the pose, like Solo all those years ago, an unfortunate photographer must have turned his back too long to the tree and was captured, enveloped, erased, as he slowly disappeared into the tree. Thinking back to that scene I’m glad they didn’t freeze my beloved Chewbacca too, I think that would have radicalized young Boolie and sent him over to the dark side.
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
For my trip to the Olympic peninsula this spring, more than anything I wanted to visit the Hoh Rain Forest when it was raining, which you wouldn’t think would be too hard given that it is an actual rain forest. But for me the Hoh has always been the Hoh Rain Adjacent Forest, as I’ve gotten drenched in many parts of the park but the rain always stopped before I reached the Hoh. This time I waited until rain was predicted for the weekend, made my reservations, loaded up the Subaru and set off.
There was no rain as I drove into Washington but not long after I pointed the car towards the peninsula the heavens opened and it poured. By the time I reached the Quinault Rain Forest the rain had lessened but I was pleased to see I would get rain in this rain forest at the very least. As I put on my rain pants and walked to the trailhead, the rain stopped literally as I stepped onto the trail. Did Mother Nature think I was amused? In truth I was, wondering if I’d get rain the next day or if the Hoh was to be my Wet Whale.
I had been drenched in the Quinault before so the suddenly dry skies weren’t too much of a disappointment and I started up the Maple Glade Loop Trail and the Kestner Homestead Trail, stopping at the homestead to photograph this dilapidated old moving van with trees growing inside, an old favorite from a previous visit. They keep the area around the truck mowed but are letting nature reclaim the truck. Ashes to ashes, dust to rust.
As I photographed the truck I was caught off guard when the rain began pounding down once more. I took a few more pictures before retreating to a covered picnic area. The large drops made a racket as they pelted the corrugated metal roof and then somehow it rained even harder. As I admired the rain I realized I was laughing out loud, not with a chuckle, but a good loud belly laugh. I immediately stopped and looked self-consciously around but there was no one else around, apparently not everyone loves the rain.
I ventured out for a few more pictures but suddenly realized my biggest mistake in my desire to pack lightly, as I hadn’t brought a backup camera or lens. The camera is weather sealed but the lens isn’t and makes them both vulnerable where they connect. So mostly I just stood there and reveled in the rain, soaking it in in case tomorrow dawned dry.
The next morning I drove to the Hoh, knowing the weather was going to improve throughout the weekend, if improve means more and more sun, so I wasn’t sure if I’d finally get my rain. As I drove towards the park in a heavy overcast, the sun suddenly appeared and I said out loud, “You are not welcome here!” It quickly disappeared behind the clouds and, a bit surprised and a little terrified at my sudden powers, I continued on to the trailhead as a gentle rain began to fall.
At long last, rain in the Hoh.
I used one of my Tom Bihn Stuff Sacks to cover the camera and lens while hiking, and when taking pictures the material is pliant enough that I could lay the bag over the top of the camera and keep rain from hitting the lens. The outside of the bag was damp from the rain, but it was drops of rain I was worried about. That worked fine and kept the gear dry both days it rained.
One of the Hoh trails was closed, a bit of a shame as it was one where I wanted to photograph moss, so instead I spent the afternoon hiking to Sol Duc Falls in the rain. The next morning the sun rose and never yielded, but I had fun visiting a few beaches, two of which I had never been to before, and headed back to Portland. I got home in time to take Ellie for her walk, always one of my favorite parts of the day. As I walked to the train station the next morning to go back to work, still reveling in three days of hiking in such a beautiful place, I couldn’t help but reflect on the many blessings in my life.
I ordered my Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 in December 2014 to use as my main travel bag but it had been sitting idle for a year and a half. Not because I didn’t like the bag, but because I wasn’t taking trips. Understandable at first, as Emma died soon after and left me broken-hearted, then we adopted Trixie and there was much work to be done getting her introduced and accepted by the others. And late in 2015 and early in 2016 my project at work left me too tired to want to drive anywhere.
But mostly I was just not dealing with the daily stresses of life as well as I should have. So after my project finished up I decided it was time to put things to right. Since the commute to work had gotten more and more stressful the past few years, the last thing I wanted to do on weekends was get back in the car, so I quit driving to work and went back to taking the light rail. It takes longer but (most days) is less stressful and I added a few things that make the train time more enjoyable than it used to be. My goal was not just to reduce the daily stress but also to make me more willing to get in the car to go hiking.
I’ve long wanted is to have a handful of places within a day’s drive that I visit frequently enough that I can schedule a trip without much planning at any time of the year, so the next step was to start taking some short trips. In April I chose the easiest such place, the lower elevations of Olympic National Park, a place I had been to a handful of times. I deliberately chose a weekend where rain was expected as I wanted it to rain while I was in the rain forests, so I made my plans on a promising weekend, loaded up the Subaru, and I was off to the Olympics.
The Aeronaut (the Aubergine bag in the middle) was joined on its inaugural trip by my beloved Tom Bihn ID carrying my computer, as it has every day for 13 years. Joining them were my Tom Bihn Guide’s Pack as my backpack (I’ve had the bag for a while but this was my first chance to test its new padded hip belts), the Tom Bihn Tripod Quiver carrying my tripod, plus a variety of smaller Tom Bihn bags like organizers and stuff sacks. And even a few non-Bihn bags, a couple of which I’ve had for decades. Most notably my Tamrac camera bag holding my camera gear as it has for every hike for the past couple of decades, but which may finally be approaching the end of its active use. Also a Nike duffel that carried extra clothes since it was hard to tell how warm or cold or wet or dry the weekend was going to be. This one is also decades old but it’s led an easy life, mostly either storing extra gear on trips like this from spring to fall, and during the winter storing a small army of old towels that I use when photographing at Ridgefield on rainy days. Rounding out the crew of bags was my Domke F-5XB camera bag, a small bag that normally I use for short little trips like when walking our dog Ellie, and while I don’t take it hiking it is handy for storing overflow camera gear on trips like this.
The bags worked well and took some of the friction out of packing and traveling and a couple of months later I packed them up again for my second hiking trip, with more to come soon. The Aeronaut got its first real test when it joined the ID and Domke bags on a trip to visit family, my first flight in years and my first time with all carry-on, the backpack straps and grab handles on the Aeronaut really showed their worth on that trip. I fell in love with it on the first trip, it’s not an inexpensive bag but like all my Tom Bihn bags it’s thoughtfully designed and manufactured and I expect it will join the ranks of bags I use happily for many years.
And I love that color.
Despite its short length, the Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rain Forest provides nice views of nurse logs, fallen trees that provide a beneficial perch for seedlings to take root. As the young trees grow into giants themselves, their roots reach down around the log and into the soil. In time the log rots away, the emptiness that remains a reminder of how life for one tree began with the death of another.
I recently got back from a week of hiking in Washington and made my fourth visit to the Hoh Rain Forest. My fourth dry visit to the Hoh Rain Forest. While it rained heavily during much of my trip, it was warm and sunny during my visit to the Hoh, so I’ll make a return trip this winter to all but guarantee a rainy day.
I wonder if tourists would pay me on sunny days to walk behind them with a watering can held above their head, to better get the full rainforest experience.