By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it
Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers,--
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
Poem fragment in honor of an afternoon spent in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington.
I'm back from nearly two days without internet, though it was well worth it as we were on beaches and mountains, near waterfalls and in hot springs.
At Sol Duc we tossed our stuff inside our cottage and went to the pool complex, which in addition to a large swimming pool has three hot spring pools ranging from about 100 to nearly 105 degrees and smelling strongly of sulfur. We were advised not to spend more than 20 minutes in the hot springs but none of us lasted even that long, going to swim instead in the 81-degree swimming pool that looked up at the nearby hills. It was a cool evening and we got back in the hot pools before washing off and coming back for dinner in the cottage -- they all come equipped with picnic tables and plenty of room to barbecue, and the store in the resort had a variety of desserts and wine. In the evening, since the sky doesn't get dark until after 10 at this time of year, we took a hike to Sol Duc Falls, a two-mile walk in the woods. There were enormous evergreens all around and a great many birds including ravens, robins and some kind of shiny dark blue western jay, though to my sorrow we did not see a marmot, just chipmunk.
Wednesday after breakfast in Sol Duc we drove to Rialto Beach on the Pacific Ocean, after a short wait for a mountain goat to cross the road going through the deep woods. At the shore we saw the sea stacks that used to be the Washington coastline back before it was Washington, and walked along the driftwood, which in this part of the country means "enormous downed spruce and red alder trees that form a barrier along the beach." We wanted to walk closer to the sea stacks and the rocks were slippery, so I took off my shoes to walk in the ocean and ended up getting soaked above the knees since the tide was coming in. After rummaging in the suitcase for dry pants and eating a picnic lunch near the driftwood, we drove through another part of the Olympic National Forest, where we saw lots of logging trucks and sections that had obviously been stripped in the past, but also signs identifying how often each area had been harvested, when it had last been harvested and replanted and when the current trees were due to be harvested.
We went after lunch to the Hoh Rainforest, where many of the trees are nearly 500 years old and the ecosystem is extremely carefully preserved -- backcountry campers are not even allowed to take a dump in the woods without taking their droppings with them. The trees there are hanging with moss, ferns and epiphytes that live on the moisture in the air, so very little sunlight gets through even when it's not dripping (of course we had rain in the mountains and sunshine in the rainforest). We did not get to see any flying squirrels -- nor elk, from which the ranger station was warning everyone to stay away from as they recently reproduced and have been attacking perceived threats to their offspring -- but we saw quail, some kind of black rodent crossing the road and assorted beetles, slugs and whiny flies. None of my photos do any justice at all to the size and shape of the Sitka spruce and Douglas fir trees in this spectacular region.
A deer peeks out from between trees near one of the little waterfalls along Hurricane Ridge.
Clouds hover above Mount Olympus and smaller peaks in the Olympic Range. There are many active glaciers on the peaks.
A field of wildflowers leads to glacial Lake Crescent. That amazing blue is the actual color of the water, which is full of runoff from the contemporary glaciers and is over 600 feet deep.
Sol Duc Resort's hot springs and swimming pool in the shadow of the mountains. Sol Duc and Elwha are valleys that Native American legend says were inhabited by dragons that, unable to conquer the entire region, crawled underground to cry and their tears create the hot springs in each valley.
Driftwood and stones litter Rialto Beach on the Pacific Ocean with sea stacks in the background.
Tree branch in the Hoh Rainforest hung heavily with clubmoss, which lives off water vapor and air.
We are spending the evening in Forks in a motel that isn't nearly as scenic as our cottage in Sol Duc, but has separate bedrooms with three queen-sized beds, plus a big living room, a full kitchen with stove and microwave and a bathroom that's off a hallway so what it lacks in glamour it makes up for in space. It also has a little pool, which, again, while not as exciting as hot springs was enough to keep the kids happy for an hour before dinner and baths. (And this motel has internet-capable phone jacks!) We cooked macaroni and cheese and watched a little baseball earlier and are going to bed early so that we can fit in both Olympic Peninsula beaches and Tacoma tall ships tomorrow.
Speaking of tall ships,