The Hoh Rainforest and a Campfire

Mileage today: 51 Total mileage: 1,179

The sun came back with a vengeance today. A glorious sunny day, temperatures about 23C and not a cloud in the sky. Our plan was to walk some of the Hoh River Trail through the rain forest of the same name.

First a bit of context. Olympic National Park is over 1440 square miles, the vast majority of it designated wilderness. Coincidentally, that’s almost exactly the same size as Kent, where our home is. Imagine a wilderness that big. The largest forest in the whole UK is Galloway Forest park and thats only about 297 square miles and most people think that is huge!!! ONP is 5 times that size. Imagine you are standing on top of an enormous hill and you look around, and in every direction as far as the eye can see, as far as your binoculars can see there are hills and mountains and those hills and mountains are covered in trees, dense trees……. just green everywhere…… there isn’t a trace of man to be seen anywhere. Not a wisp of smoke, not a rooftop. That’s what it’s like. And the USA doesn’t just have one area like that. It has a lot. Blows my mind every time we come.

The Hoh Rainforest is on the western side of the park and is one of the largest temperate rain forests in the USA and is a portion of a giant rainforest that once stretched from SE Alaska to northern California. The trees inside the Hoh are very old and very huge. Sitka Spruce, Red Cedar, Douglas Fir…. some with huge circumferences and all stretching up skywards. The undergrowth is mainly fern and mosses and the trees themselves drip with moss. Where trees have fallen, they have been left to provide habitats to fungi and insects and they are even more moss covered than their tall neighbours. The river Hoh runs through the forest, quite fast flowing and very clear and blue.

There are a number of trails to walk but the Hoh River Trail is probably the most popular. It stretches 18.5 miles towards Mt. Olympus, running alongside the river. There are some camp grounds along the way. We weren’t doing anything like that of course. We were planning that we might walk for 6 miles but in the end did about 4 because a. we’d forgotten our lunch (duh duh and double duh) and b. Bob’s leg started to pinch a bit. We did have plenty of water, I add, just not the food…..

We got to the park entrance at about 940 and there was already a line to get in. The car park at the trailhead/visitor centre is not huge and has to cope with overnight campers as well. So once it gets full, they let you in on a one in-one out basis. There were about 12 cars ahead of us and it took us about 45 minutes to get through the gateway. There was then about a 5 mile drive to the car park. I moaned a bit at first about the limitation but actually, the benefit is that the trail feels very emoty where otherwise it might easily become a crowd scene. We did see other people along the way but not many and we were walking out of sight of other hikers 99% of the time. That was really nice.

The woods are simply glorious. Huge huge trees, luxuriant mosses, thickly clustered ferns in every direction. Red rotting logs here and there and in the background the rushing tinkle of the river Hoh. We had a fantastic walk and I do recommend it very much. It is pretty much flat all the way we went and I believe remains that way until about mile 14. The trail is not gravelled and you have to watch for roots all the way but it is an easy to walk trail.

A turn around in the woods

Got back to the cottage about 2pm and had our long delayed lunch!!! I was hoping we could get into the river at the bottom of the garden but Bob said it wasn’t a safe enough entry point and we might get stuck. Or rather I might…. So instead we sat out and enjoyed the garden and read. Have I mentioned the humming birds? They are all over our porch – the owner has a nectar feeder up for them. I have failed on the photo front, but will keep trying. How lovely!!!! They are so tiny. Scarcely larger than a big old bumble bee.

Tonight after dinner, Bob lit a campfire in the firepit and we sat and watched the logs burn, drank some bourbon and listened to the river flow past. The humming birds were still darting about until it was nearly dark. There’s something about a campfire isn’t there? It’s mesmerising and very much part of our inherited memory bank. For our generation it takes us back to bonfire nights in the garden….. scout or guide camp….. maybe the odd camping holiday or beach bonfire…..

Around the campfire

We’ve loved staying here in this cabin. If you are ever looking for accommodation in these parts, I can heartily recommend It’s a heavenly spot.