The Hoh Rain Forest is found along a 30 mile (48km) river valley in Olympic National Park in the State of Washington. With the Olympic Mountains so close to the east of the valley coupled with cool, damp air from the Pacific Ocean just to the west, rain forms as the moist air rises into the mountains. In the Hoh River Valley, an average of 156 inches (396cm) of rain falls each year.
Such copious amounts of water and a year around temperate climate allows trees like the Sitka Spruce to grow over 300 feet tall and 23 feet in diameter. I had my wife stand next to a typical Sitka Spruce (only about 175 feet tall) to give you a better idea of the size of most of the trees in the Hoh Rain Forest.
Like at Hurricane Ridge, there is a visitor center filled with exhibits about the rain forest ecology and the creatures who live there. The Hoh Visitor Center has modern bathrooms, water fountains, water bottle filling station, gift shop and a Ranger counter for people to ask questions and plan their time there.
The Hall of Mosses Trail is a mile long well groomed trail to walk with green (and I do mean green) trees covered in moss with lush vegetation carpeting the forest floor. Every thing is covered. If a tree falls, within a year, fungi break it down and trees, moss and ferns will start growing on top of the fallen trunks. These are called nurse logs as they provide nutrients for the new trees and plants.
About half way on the trail, you enter the Hall of Mosses.
These are big maple trees which continue to thrive despite the large moss growths on their branches. Ground vegetation like the ferns you see in the photo scramble for every bit of sunlight which filters through to them. Banana slugs on the ground chew up and digest into usable nutrients any dead material which flutters down. Up in the canopy, squirrels and birds live high above most predators like bobcats and raccoons.
As I have stated in previous posts, with the Olympic National Park containing mountains, ocean coasts and rain forests, it is one of the most unique and biologically diverse parks in the world. In fact, the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) made it a World Heritage Site in 1981. Hmm, 1981 was the year I interned there. How fitting!
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