We got up early on our first full day in Olympic National Park, ready to get out and explore. It was a wet day, but we’d packed for this type of weather. It was autumn in the Pacific Northwest, after all.
Our first destination was the Hoh Rainforest. One of the largest temperate rainforests in the US, it’s known for hiking trails like the Hall of Mosses. Who can resist a name like that? It was an hour from our Airbnb in Forks, with about half of the drive consisting of a serpentine road through lush rainforest.
As we drove, we kept an eye out for Olympic’s famous Roosevelt elk, and lo and behold…
We spotted this herd just off the road. They were mildly interested in us, but not too bothered.
Roosevelt elk, the largest elk in North America, can be found all over the park. President Franklin Roosevelt named them after his relative Teddy – handy since they share the same last name. (Also, it doesn’t seem fair that good ol’ Ted gets elk AND stuffed bears!) The year after naming these majestic beasts, FDR created Olympic National Park.
Please excuse all the elk booty shots.
We left them to go on their way and followed the road to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center. There were a couple good loop walks, so we decided to do both.
Find the Andy!
It’s easy to see why they call this the Hall of Mosses.
The sheer size of the trees was just incredible, making us feel like the tiny humans we are. Woodpeckers drilled away overhead and Douglas squirrels chattered in the branches as we wandered slowly through the forest. We didn’t pass many people, since we’d headed out just as the visitor center opened.
The Hoh Rainforest is pretty wet, with 140 inches/12 feet (3.55 meters) of rain falling on average each year. This damp climate makes the forest ecosystem completely unique and a breathtaking place to visit.
Autumn colors poked out amidst the lush greenery.
Although NZ has plenty of temperate rainforests, the Hoh was something entirely different. I can’t get over the scale of everything that grows here. It feels like this place hasn’t changed since dinosaurs walked the earth.
Of course, we had to get some honeymoon photos!
After finishing the Hall of Mosses Trail, we were on to the Spruce Nature Trail.
Signs along the trail pointed out flora and fauna alike. It turns out the huge fallen trees here become nurseries for new saplings. Known as “nurse logs,” the log eventually rots away, feeding the growing young trees. However, you can still see the ghost of the mother log by looking out for trunks in an orderly row.
Here’s one starting out, with pine saplings on top.
And here are mature trees, straddling a decaying nurse log.
It’s amazing how the end of the life cycle feeds the beginning of new life.
The trail wound under trees and beside green swamps, speckled with raindrops.
I can smell the crisp fall air and sodden forest just looking at these photos.
We emerged from the forest to fantastic views out over the Hoh River.
Olympic could give Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud, a run for its money.
The roots of a downed tree give you an idea of how large these behemoths are. Doesn’t it look like Andy has wings?
I thought we’d left autumn behind, so I was pretty happy to get more of my fix, since it’s not something we get too much of in NZ.
As we neared the end of the trail, Andy spotted a Douglas squirrel, perched in the distance. As it wrangled its meal, I had the time to swap out my wide-angle lens for the telephoto one and zoom right in.
Thanks to Wikipedia, I’ve learned that “The Native Americans of Kings River called it the ‘Pillillooeet’, in imitation of its characteristic alarm call.” I love it, even if I probably can’t pronounce it.
This little guy or gal was in no hurry to abandon its perch. I love the squirrel’s red belly and gray back. What a cutie!
We left it to continue its meal and finished up our walk. It was time to grab some lunch and dry off temporarily before exploring more of Olympic in the afternoon.
And that’s the Hoh story! Sorry…
Anyway, stay tuned for some rugged beach adventures and a look at our cozy Airbnb!