In the first 28 years of my life I visited ZERO rain forests. In the 29th year I visited two!
The first came this March when Jessica and I visited her family in Puerto Rico. That rain forest, El Yunque, is tropical. The next stop on our road trip, The Hoh Rain Forest, is a temperate rain forest.
After spending a night in Portland and visiting the Gardens, Jessica and I drove north up the coast to the northwest corner of Washington State. Most folks know that Seattle is on the water but do not know that there is still a large chunk of land to Seattle’s west. That tract of land is the Olympic Peninsula named for the mountain range it contains.
As weather moves west to east across the Pacific Ocean it picks up evaporating moisture. When it reaches the mountains along the Olympic Coast, it is uplifted into cooler air. The cooler air holds less moisture and drops what it cannot hold as rain. As a result, the Hoh receives over 12 FEET of rain each year. For scale, the recent Hurricane Arthur left about 4 to 6 inches of rain in its path.
All of that rain (the most in the contiguous US) leads to a very luscious and dense forest. Trees and ferns grow anywhere and everywhere they can, and light barely filters through the upper canopy to the forest floor. With essentially unlimited access to rainwater, the trees are enormous. ENORMOUS!
After setting up our tent and tarp at a nearby coastal campground, Jessica and I drove inland to reach The Hoh. As we drove, the forest grew thicker around us. Eventually we reached the parking area and set out on two hikes totaling about 2 miles: The Hall of Mosses Trail and The Spruce Nature Trail. Both trails wound through the thick groves of Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, and Bigleaf Maple while ferns and mosses filled in any forest opening.
The most amazing part of The Hoh is the scale of the trees. They are truly enormous.
Early in our hike, we came upon a downed tree along the trail. Lying on its side, the tree reached deep into the forest. Jessica and I climbed on top of it and walked along the trunk into the thick foliage of the forest. We did our best to capture the scale, but the photos do not do it justice.
I am in both of the photos below. On the left, I walked about 2/3 of the way down the tree. You will probably need to click on the photo to even be able to see me.
Fallen trees are really important in The Hoh. When a tree falls, it provides an opportunity for new trees and plants to grow. Oftentimes, new trees will sprout directly on top of the dead one. A neat byproduct of this is that trees are often found growing in a long line where they sprouted on a dead tree. In the photo below you can even sort of still see the dead tree under the line of trees.
The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the most surprising and beautiful places we have visited on our trip. And, we definitely recommend that you visit. I could not stop taking photos the entire time we were there.