Friday, July 1, 2016

Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic NP, 6/25/2016

Our second visit to Olympic National Forest was to the Hoh Rain Forest

From Forks, WA, it is located south on Highway 101 to the left turn into the park on Upper Hoh Road. From there it is approximately 19 miles to the Hoh Visitor Center

There are several trails into the temperate rain forest from the Visitor Center. We crossed a bridge over Taft Creek to Spruce Nature Trail. Coho salmon spawn when they are 3 years old here in the fall and winter and then die. Their young emerge in the spring and live in the creek for a year. The water was so clear I was able to capture a picture of a tiny fry (young salmon).  

The Spruce Nature Trail is a 1.25 mile loop through that provides an up close experience in the lush forest. There are large Douglas firs, Sitka spruce, western hemlocks, eight fern species, and more than 130 mosses, lichens, liverworts, etc., growing on trees. 

A portion of the trail follows the beautiful Hoh River (fed by glacial waters and snowmelt). 

Some of the trees are over 200' tall and 500 years old. Winter storms bring down some of the shallow-rooted, large trees creating nurse logs where mosses and seedlings flourish. Only one in 10,000 seedling will survive. 

The seedlings start to grow on the nurse log and eventually their roots reach the soil. Eventually the nurse log totally deteriorates and the large trees remain with crazy root formations. It is not uncommon to see a row of large Sitka spruce trees that all germinated on a single log (3rd photo below).

Multiple western hemlock trees germinated on a tree stump. As their roots reached the soil, they grew together giving the appearance of a single large tree. 

With 140 inches of rain annually and moist fog, every bit of ground is covered with growth providing plenty of food for the elk indigenous to the area. The mosses and lichen (epiphytes) that grow on the trees get their nutrients and water from the air and do not damage the trees unless they grow so thickly that limbs cannot hold their weight. Below is a heavily draped big-leaf maple. 

Next we hiked the Hall of Mosses Trail (.75 mile) that is also near the Visitor Center. Here, we saw a banana slug that thrive in the cool, damp rain forest. This was definitely on my list of "would-love-to-see" critters here. There are apparently millions of them here in the 1,442 square mile Olympic National Park. They play a key role in "cleaning" the forest floor. 

There are older trees in this part of the rain forest than can be seen on the Spruce Nature Trail. As the name suggest, lots of them are heavily draped

Over the last several months we have seen the most amazing forests and massive trees (giant sequoia, coastal redwoods, Sitka spruce, western hemlocks, and more). Each has its unique special qualities but all are a wonder to behold. 

Admission to Olympis National Park is $25/vehicle for a 7-day pass. Of course, our Senior Pass gets us in for free. For additional information about Olympic National Park, check it out online.


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