A Home in Forks, WA

By Tom Groenewal

December 15, 1991


Another sunny day and I decide to take advantage of the rare weather and plan a hike. Mrs. Rhode, a teacher aide in one of my classes, revealed that her husband is the district ranger for the Hoh and she directs my attention to the Bogachiel River trail.

I look for the Bogachiel River in my guidebook. The trailhead is at the end of a road miles away from the Bogachiel State Park off Rt. 101 south of Forks. The end of the road is blocked by a gate and sign at mile 4.3, to give the elk some quiet habitat.

According to my Olympic Peninsula hiking guide, I should find old trees approx. 1.5 miles down the trail just before getting to the Nat’l Park boundary. After a steep trail, which descends to the river bottom, I travel within earshot of rushing water from the Bogachiel. I pass huge cedars, spruce, and hemlock.

There are constant side stream crossings: some can be jumped, others require hopping across slippery rocks, and others require carefully inching across a log, which are splayed from bank to bank, either by the randomness of nature or the work of ambitious trail builders. It is cold down in the valley and frost still covers the logs, some of which are the paths crossing streams. Some of the logs crossing the streams are big trees 4 feet in diameter with dead branches sticking out in all directions. This obstacle the branches combined with slippery frost creates a hazard which commands attention to prevent falling into the cold water.

Elk tracks are everywhere appearing the size of rainforest beef cows. They cross the trail back and forth from the ridges to the open river bottoms where they can drink and probably find succulent browsing on the plentiful vegetation or just hang out with other elk.

There are birds: grouse, Seller’s Jays, Juncos, Varied Thrush, Robins, several species of sparrows and some I have yet to identify. I saw an American Dipper (about the size of a small robin) hopping from rock to rock and with its thin 2-inch beak trying to grab some insects. The bird is a dark gray with legs that looked like black toothpicks. I wonder how many of these birds get swept away during high flows?

There is a small dam on one of the streams which creates a shallow backwater ranging from a few inches to 1 foot deep. What’s up with the dam?

Upon reaching the park boundary I find the standard hiker sign and the list of regulations pertaining to the area. No guns, bicycles, motorized vehicles and such. I hike another few miles or so and decided to scramble my way down to the river and save the next 30 miles of trail for some other time.

The Bogachiel river appears to have more braided channels than the Sitka or Calawah Rivers. I wonder why? Maybe the Bogachiel river bottom is more spread out and carries more water. Since rain has not fallen for a few days the water is clear and the current moderate. No signs of fish, however, the river is supposed to have good winter steelhead runs and resident trout. Certainly, a nice place to come and spend a few hours fishing on another day.