By Judy Smith
The Hoh Rainforest is a top destination for Olympic National Park tourists for good reason. There are big trees, a lush moss covered forest, a meandering river and Roosevelt elk often lollygagging alongside the road and trail.
Have you been up to the Hoh Rainforest recently? It’s right in our big backyard. My 3-year-old grandson loves both the Hall of Mosses Trail and the Spruce Nature Trail. Starting right at the visitor center, both trails are easily followed one-mile loops that offer a complete rainforest experience.
On a warm and beautiful morning last fall, I decided to go further afield and take a day hike up the Hoh River Trail. I packed a lunch, put on my favorite Colorado State University t-shirt and headed up the trail, which meanders through big trees and lush undergrowth.
The trail is fairly level with good tread. In the first mile, I was making good time in spite of meeting a lot of people hiking and trail running. Everyone I met was courteous and said “Hi.” Unfortunately, all those hi’s on the Hoh soon had me marching along singing that iconic Disney song, like a demented Happy the dwarf.
“Yay, Colorado State!” cheered two older guys with backpacks who I met about three miles in. These hikers were on the final leg of a three-day trek that started at the Sol Duc trailhead. We leaned against a downed log and chatted for a while, and I found out that they were retired professors from my alma mater. The hike was a retirement celebration for one of the gents. We were like ships passing in the night — I graduated in spring 1981 and he started teaching there in August 1981.
About a half-mile further, a long-bearded gent also remarked on my CSU shirt because he studied there for two years. He was a lifelong student who had also studied at numerous universities just for the joy of learning. We agreed that hikes are good for learning too.
At four miles up the trail, I started looking for the Cougar Creek cedar grove that was described in one of my trail guides. Somehow, I totally missed it. I asked an oncoming hiker (they are sparser as you get further up the trail), but he hadn’t noticed a cedar grove. I hiked another half-mile thinking maybe I just hadn’t reached it yet, but no luck. Phooey. It just means I’ll have to go back again to find it.
Regretfully, I turned around to head back down the trail since 10 miles is about my limit. I took several breaks to admire the flora along the trail and also to rest my tired feet. There was some cool bright-orange wood-rotting fungus growing on a stump and a bright red mushroom with white spots.
As I stopped to tighten the laces on my hiking boot at a small stream crossing, I was charmed to see a waterfall a short distance above the trail. I made a note to myself to stop and look around more, because I totally missed that on the way upriver.
A couple hundred yards further, I met a young woman who was hiking in a long flowing skirt. “Do you know where the waterfall is?” she asked me. “It’s right around the corner,” I replied, like I’d always known that. Good thing she didn’t ask me about the cedar grove.
The Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center is 31 miles southeast of Forks. There is a fee to enter the park and dogs are not allowed on the trails.
Judy Smith has been a resident tourist since moving to Forks for her husbands work five years ago. Retired from the federal government, she is an avid hiker, obsessive huckleberry gatherer, writer, proud Army Mom and “Granny Smith.”