Written by Steve Pogge. Photos by George Bush. September 2016
On Sept 19, 2016 thirteen hearty adventurers took off from Panorama on what was to become one of our most awe inspiring trips of the primeval NW forests and beaches that I have been fortunate to lead. This was a 3 day/2 night trip that was based out of Forks Washington. Forks is renown for Vampires, not for its culinary and lodges. We were however treated to a nice clean little Inn tucked away in the woods for a few nights and ventured out to La Push for a quaint gourmet restaurant found on the Quileute Indian Reservation.
Having procured housing and food we were set to explore and discover the beauty of this magnificent area. The Pacific Northwest is the largest temperate rain-forest in the world, getting over 15 ft (not inches) of rain a year. It is filled with big trees. I don’t mean the run of the mill big, I mean HUGE Mammoth trees. Our first stop was to see the biggest Sitka Spruce in the World, located in the Lake Quinault region of the National Park. This tree is not only big but it is also very old. The best guess by the experts is that this tree has been around for 1000 years! It is impossible to describe the feeling of standing next to an ancient living species that dwarf everything around it and was a young tree even before the Crusades. This was the first of many jaw dropping experiences during the week.
We then stopped at the Lake Quinault Lodge to view the grand old Lodge built in the early 1900’s after the National Park model. What we didn’t expect was to run into a native American woman, named Harvest Moon, who had been a story teller for 30 years and basket weaver for 40 years. She just happened to be showing her baskets that day. She was willing to share a few stories of the “first people” and had us captivated for the rest of the morning. She also had a fine sense of humor. We all laughed after she recited the shortest Indian story ever told; “The salmon swam up the river and said DAM.”
We could of stayed longer but had scheduled visits to 3 rain-forests on the Peninsula: The Quinault valley, the Hoh valley, and the Sol Duc Valley, one for each day of the trip. Our first rain-forest was on the North shore of the Quinault river. This rarely visited side of the park was magical and surreal. Walking through the moss laden cedars and hemlock lined paths we expected elves and hobbits to jump out at us.
We came out at an old homestead that has long been abandoned and taken over by the National Park system but previously had housed and sustained 4 generations of the Kestner family. After a quick lunch we loaded up and headed towards Forks where we hunkered down for the next few nights.
Day two, took us to one of the most visited beaches on the NW coast; Rialto Beach. The walking was difficult on this rocky beach but the sea stacks on one side and the huge driftwood trees on the other side with sea birds to entertain us all the way made the trip far less daunting. A few of our troupe made it to the famous Hole-in-the-Wall rock that allows a person through the hole, for only a few hours, at low tide. If caught on the wrong side, you are stuck till the tide changes. We got lucky and were able to walk through and back only minutes before the tide closed off our passage. Knowing lunch was back at the bus was incentive enough for everyone to get back without a swim.
For the afternoon, we headed up for our second Rain forest experience, the Sol Duc Valley. We got to see salmon spawning on the Sol Duc river along with a memorable hike through an ancient Old growth forest and then on to the beautiful Sol Duc Falls. Two of us were attacked by Yellow jackets (myself included) at the trail head. As with all adventures, there is always the unknown and sometimes it can sting. In this case, we used ointment, ice and a few choice words and we were able to carried on.
Day three took us to the last of the Rain forests we were to visit. All of us commented on how each rain forest was so different but amazing in their own special way. The Park ranger gave us a private personal introduction to what we were about to experience. The Hoh did not let us down. We talked in whispers as we ventured through the Hall of Moses and marveled at the breathtaking beauty of this special place. We had our last picnic lunch and then set off to see Ruby Beach, a short drive away. The sun had broken out by this time and lit up the beach like a picture postcard. After being awe struck by one of the prettiest beaches and most magnificent forests we ever saw, what more could we asked for? Well there was more to come, we continue down the coast to see another one of the Ancients. This time it was a Western Red Cedar that was impossible to describe with its incredible mass, height, shape, color,and age. All we could do was marvel at one of the largest living organism on the planet. The trip was drawing to a close but not without one last final stop to top off a great 3 days. ICE CREAM at Scoops in Aberdeen.
I am hopeful this trip will be one that is remembered for a life time. I want to thank all those who participated for being wonderful traveling companions. It was the love of nature and the outdoors that came from each of the participants that made this such a special experience. I am hoping to run this trip at least once again next spring.