Arriving late afternoon on the northwestern coast of Washington this first week of June, we land at Forks, some 60 miles southwest of Port Angeles. We are on a mission to find a comfortable motel room to watch the first game of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Your Cleveland Cavaliers; by the way, games start at 6P on the Left Coast and we actually stay awake throughout them.
Our first choice is our last choice – The Dew Drop Inn. AARP discount, two double beds, flat screen TV, even a cold breakfast with homemade waffles, cold cereal, and muffins. All for $79. We’ve been paying north of $105 in Port Angeles and Packwood the last few nights.
And for all you who perked up when I said Forks, the Dew Drop Inn has three Bella’s Suites based on the blockbuster Twilight series. We opt for a regular room, but I got to say I loved the series. Like J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, Stephenie Meyer spins an engaging tale. If it were so easy to write a blockbuster, everyone would be doing it. September of 2015 is the tenth anniversary of the first book, Twilight. This year Forks will hold a celebration the weekend after Labor Day for those of you who have your calendars out.
Heading south on The 101 (the same glorious road we have come to know and love in coastal California) through the forest, we know we are in lumbering, I mean “forest products” country. Regularly passed by open-bed logging trucks with their massive loads of Douglas fir, we often see clear cutting of the mountain hillsides. As a renewable resource, the forests are replanted and soon make for a beautiful hillside. Still, in the meantime the patchwork clear cutting is not pretty.
Twelve miles south of Forks, we turn inland for the Hoh River Visitor Center as we enter the western section of the Olympic National Park. With 18 miles of winding road along the Hoh River to the trailhead, we are transported so far from York, Maine that we feel like explorers of the Amazon northwest. We are Carole King So Far Away.
The Hoh River Trail snakes 18 miles through the rainforest to the Hoh Glacier on Mount Olympus. Glaciers grind rock into a fine glacial flour which turns the Hoh River a milky slate blue. Our destination today is more modest as we are heading to Tom’s Creek three miles away.
Hiking along the Hoh River, we find the trail a flatlander’s delight. We weave through the ferns, moss, and green-ness to our right, left, and center thanks to plentiful precipitation, mild winters, and cool summers. While it will go near 90F inland today, we have a delightful 65F warming us this morning. For the third day in a row we have a hike that families will love with its leisurely, almost non-existent elevation gain.
The terrain is foot-saving packed dirt with a few rocks and worn roots to make it interesting. Amazingly, despite the rainforest climate and vegetation, we do not run into one mosquito or mosquita (feminine) throughout the entire two hours of hiking.
Glaciers are taking a beating in this part of the country as they recede at an alarming rate. Global warming deniers need to come west and see the 1970 pictures of this area compared to what they see today. Our grandsons, Owen and Max, and yours, too, need us all to reverse this trend together.
Amid God’s wilderness I feel a sense of righteous indignation about the issue of global warming. Too many of us can get caught up in our daily lives and do not see the forest for the trees. (You knew that was coming, right?)
Finding the rushing waters of Tom’s Creek, we spot a waterfall in the interior through the leafy fronds and ferns of this coastal trail. The ranger tells us that this area has 0% of the snow pack that it normally does. That’s a big goose egg. They have received their normal amount of precipitation, but due to the 1-3 degree increase in temperature this winter, the precipitation has fallen as rain.
With the dry season of July and August nearly upon them, drought conditions are concerns since the water from the melting snows won’t be released throughout the summer. And yet if one looks with short-term blinders at the lushness of the rainforest, one can mistakenly think that everything is fine. It is not.
As we head back to the trailhead other hikers have come to enjoy this jewel supported by our government. Why are government workers seen as the bogey men and bogey women? When we get out in the country and see the work these women and men do for the good of us all in America’s National Parks, we just got to wonder what the cable news haters are thinking.
We pass frequent large chunks of wood from fallen trees that have been cut up to clear a path for us day hikers and our hardier brethren, backpackers. There were places through this lush forest, where our hiking day would have been finito since there is no way we could have climbed over or around these massive trees.
With the level trail, we are able to hike at a 3 mph pace on a glorious day with temps in the upper 60s. If “Almost Heaven, West Virginia” is true, heaven’s younger brother resides along the Hoh River here in the Northwest.