Do you see the face formed at the bottom of this tree? There’s a prominent eye, nose and chin and it tilts to the left.
It had rained for a week before we went to the Hoh Rainforest. And it rains from 12 to 14 feet per year on average. It may be a sunny day but it’s not a bad idea to prepare for mud.
Life in the Hoh Rainforest bursts forth both as new growth and as decomposition. They go hand in hand in breaking down and building a forest. This fungus is one of many kinds that we saw. It decomposes and absorbs organic material.
Slugs are another type of decomposer. They eat and break down plant materials. They are voracious and can daily eat several times their body weight.
What’s this? It’s a rotting log and it’s been helped along by one of the top predators in the food chain, a bear. Bears paw through soft dead wood like this, searching for grubs and other little critters that feed on decaying wood. We just missed seeing a bear on the trail where we saw this log. Other hikers excitedly described their sighting further down the trail. It was gone by the time we got there. Phew!
Nurse logs are an environmental feature of a temperate rainforest and the Hoh Rainforest provides abundant examples. Fallen trees break down over time and facilitate germination of seedlings. Small trees grow along the length of the decaying trunk. The roots you see above are growing through and over the side of a nurse log.
As the new trees mature the original nurse log decays into humus and eventually disappears. The roots form strong, intricate webs.
Tangles of tree roots are left once the nurse log is gone.
The roots sometimes have air gaps and voids where there once was a decaying tree.
Here’s a Native American prayer, a peace offering for a world in pain.
“Creator, open our hearts
to peace and healing between all people.
Creator, open our hearts
to provide and protect for all children of the earth.
Creator, open our hearts
to respect for the earth, and all the gifts of the earth.
Creator, open our hearts
to end exclusion, violence, and fear among all.
Thank you for the gifts of this day and every day.”
Alycia Longriver, Micmac Native American
The visual beauty of the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park is unmistakable. But if there’s time to slow down a little and take it all in the magic unfolds. Because of its staggering rainfall — 12 to 14 feet per year — life here flourishes. The environment is packed with nutrients as organic materials fall and decay to become rich mulch for new growth. Though light on the forest floor is diffused there is growth everywhere. Under this miniature greenery, above, is a tree stump.
Growth takes hold at virtually every turn. It can truly be awe inspiring to take it all in.
I’m deeply saddened by the divisions, bloodshed and displacement in the world and it has seemed even greater recently. I won’t rant but will offer some thoughts I’ve found valuable.
“Children, everybody, here’s what to do during war:
In a time of destruction, create something.
A moral principle.
One peaceful moment.”
“The Fifth Book of Peace,” Maxine Hong Kingston
There’s a short loop trail, the Hall of Mosses, at the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park. Moss, of course, is a given in a rainforest. But the trail traverses some particularly beautiful areas. This spot, filled with magnificent trees, dwarfs walkers. Did you notice the people in the shot above?
Some trees are so covered in moss it’s hard to tell if the trees themselves are still alive. The effect of the greenery and moss is truly magical.
Other trees are iced with a coating of moss that gives them an entirely different look from a typical evergreen.
The Hoh Rainforest can be reached as a day trip from Sequim although the roughly three hour drive each way makes for a long one. We camped for a couple of days which allowed more exploration.
As I reflect on the world’s grief and pain I’d like to share a longer prayer that seems fitting with the rainforest photos above.
A Prayer for the World
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Rabbi Harold Kushner
Twenty six years ago, on my very first trip to the Olympic Peninsula, I visited the Hoh Rainforest, part of Olympic National Park. On that trip we walked the trails I show in this post and I’ve wanted to return ever since. Last week, finally, we did. My awe at the beauty of this place was renewed. Surely this must be where the color green was invented.
The Hoh is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States. Indeed, though we’d planned our trip for some time we shifted our arrival to coincide with the end of a weeklong period of rain. We caught some wet but it tapered off not long after our arrival. I’ll show you more of this extraordinary place over the coming days.
The world has seemed full of grief and pain lately. Over the next couple of days I’d like to share some thoughts that have seemed relevant to contemplate at a time like this.
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
Lao-Tse, Chinese Philosopher, 6th century BCE
We drove through Forks last week. You’ve heard of Forks, right? If not, you’re forgiven. It’s the epicenter of the “Twilight” books and movie series and was a tourist hot spot for a while. There were tours of key places from the books, a souvenir shop. We had breakfast there once and an Edward Cullen look alike hung out at a nearby table, waiting to be recognized. It’s still a destination for fans of romantic vampires.
Lest you decide there’s not much there there, here’s a view of the new Rainforest Arts Center.
The world has seemed particularly full of grief and pain lately. Over the next few days I’d like to share some thoughts that have seemed relevant and hopeful.
When I despair,
I remember that all through history
the ways of truth and love have always won.
There have been tyrants, and murderers,
and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fail.
Think of it — always.