Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Dry Season in the Rain Forest, PLUS...Fabulous Fungus!

We've spent the last week in Forks, WA. About 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean and about 30 miles from the West entrance to Olympic National Park, Forks is ideally located for exploring a variety of terrain. Having arrived during the wrong time of the month to easily access the beach during low tides we spent most days hiking in the rain forest. With July and August being the driest months of the year, we enjoyed the beauty of the rain forest trails without the muddy feet...though I would love to see the rain forest in all its dripping glory some time.

Kloshe Nanitch Trail
In an effort to avoid end-of-summer weekend crowds on the trail, our first hike took us 20 miles East on highway 101; from foggy Forks to the sunny banks of the Sol Duc River and up to an old fire lookout site. The Kloshe Nanitch trail is a strenuous three mile climb through forest that opens up to views East into the Olympic Mountains and West to the ocean...if the skies are clear.

A couple of goofballs happy to be done climbing this mountain!
We could see lots of clear cut sites and replanted forest, along with the marine layer obscuring the ocean.

The crystal clear Sol Duc River near the trail head.

Bogachiel River Trail and Wetlands Loop
On Free National Park Day we chose to avoid the main Park entrance and hiked the lesser known Bogachiel River Trail. This turned out to be a wonderful way to experience rain forest and even enter the National Park (after two miles of hiking) without the crowds. We hiked about three miles of the River trail and took the Wetlands Loop on the return. This trail goes through beautiful second growth forest and is home to elk, which we saw signs of but no animals in the flesh. If you are short on time the 3 mile wetlands loop trail is an excellent alternative to the National Park.

This extremely tall tree made a great natural bridge.

It's pretty much impossible to photograph the giant trees in this forest,
but their enormous feet can give a good idea of the size of these beauties.

Fungus flowers grace the foot of another giant moss covered tree.

Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park
We did drive into Olympic National Park one day and hiked 5 miles of the Hoh River Trail. I'd say we saw more enormous old growth trees along the Hoh River than on our Bogachiel River hike (above), but the longer drive and summer crowds at the Hoh Visitor Center made the Bogachiel hike a better deal.

Morning sunlight on leaves and hanging mosses.

You need to watch your step on this trail.

Along the river the vine maples provide a splash of color.

We took a break from hiking one day and went on a logging operations tour offered by the Forks Chamber of Commerce. Logging is one of those things that, as a nature lover, I have a hard time with...but I do understand it is an integral part of life in North America, so since we're in logging country we might as well learn a little about how we harvest our wood.

Like many nature lovers, I've always been put off by clear cut forests and the unnatural uniform look of a replanted forest. We learned that clear cutting is done by private companies because it is the most commercially viable way to remove and replace a forest (it takes about 40 - 50 years to regrow a forest for harvest). Selective logging, a much less destructive process, is generally done on US Forest Service lands for forest management.

Our tour guide, Joe, spent 40 years in the logging industry around Forks and now volunteers once a week for the Chamber. 11 of us loaded into a van and Joe took us to an active logging site where they were harvesting entire trees, including the roots; normally the trees are cut off above ground and the roots are left behind to decompose. These trees with roots will be used to help shore up highway 101 along the Hoh River and are also used to provide immature salmon habitat in local rivers.

It was fascinating to watch this large tree with big branches being moved by one man in this huge piece of equipment.
Stacked in front are trees with roots. Most of the dirt will be poked out of the roots before the trees are trucked out.

Joe then took us to a small, old local mill that processes any size of trees. That is significant because modern high tech mills only process smaller logs because everything is farmed these days and the trees are of a more uniform size. Somehow this mill gets larger trees occasionally.

Eight foot chunks of logs were cut into large planks here.

The tour was interesting and informative though it didn't change my opinion of clear cutting and replanting. Though the tour is free, donations are requested in support of the Forks Chamber of Commerce. We followed it up with a visit to the small Forks Timber Museum and a good burger and fresh chips and fries at Blakeslee's Bar and Grill.

We did make it out to some of the beaches during our stay, though not during a super low tide, and usually with only a brief period of clear(ish) skies before the fog would roll in.

Second Beach in the late afternoon with wispy clouds and marine layer building in the distance.

Within 30 minutes the clouds were taking over Second Beach.

On our last full day we stayed close to camp and took care of daily life stuff and took a short hike in the Elk Creek Conservation Area right in Forks. What a lovely little trail this turned out to be! We saw evidence of the elk the creek is named after, we saw baby salmon or steelhead in the creek, and we saw some amazing fungus. If you're staying in Forks and want to experience the rain forest without driving far this 3 mile trail is definitely worth your time.

Pretty Elk Creek is an important year round habitat for salmon fry.

This is an untouched photo of a 3 foot long patch of neon orange fungus...
quite a shock of color in the forest!

We stayed at the Forks 101 RV Park, a full hookup park with spacious grassy sites in the back section, furthest from highway 101. Note, there is a row of permanent dwellings on the South edge of the RV park, some are nice small manufactured homes, some are very old, very sad looking single wides. If you can overlook the permanents, this is a decent place to stay and it's right across the highway from the terrific Forks Outfitters complex with a good grocery store, hardware store and casual clothing store. We had good 4G Verizon signal here. Oh, and there is a shooting range about two blocks away, fortunately it wasn't being used very often when we were at home.

Site 50 at Forks 101 RV Park.

That's it for our time in Forks; as we head South and to the coast it looks like we've got a few days of rain ahead of us, to be expected in this part of the country. We've been extremely fortunate with the weather on the Olympic Peninsula this summer so we really can't complain. We'll just bundle up and get out in the weather or hibernate in our cozy little home on wheels.

One more thing...We are so fortunate to be living this amazing RV lifestyle in the age of the Internet, with instant access to information right at our fingertips. We can research places to stay, things to do at each stop, questions about issues with the RV, or healthcare, or insurance, stay in touch with family and friends, write the blog...the list goes on and on...clearly the Internet is a key component of this lifestyle. How we connect to the Internet, with a good strong signal, is one of the most common questions we field from people in RV parks.

When we were studying this lifestyle, trying to decide if this was what we wanted to do, one source stood out in the RV blogosphere as the place to go for connectivity information: Technomadia; and to this day, two years into this lifetsyle for us, they remain the premier source. Chris and Cherie have consolidated their excellent research and advice into the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center...THE place to go for all your connectivity questions! Check it out to learn the most current information available on this vital piece of the RV lifestyle puzzle.


  1. Great hikes, all with something different and wonderful to enjoy! I'm always fascinated by the large variety of fungi in the forests - and their bright colors :-). Got my Kindle copy of Technomadia's updated Internet Handbook yesterday - it has everything :-)

  2. I miss the coast already. :::sigh::: But glad I get to relive it all over again through you guys! Beautiful fungi!

  3. Thanks for posting! Now we know where to stay in the area. Where are you heading next?

    1. Long Beach, WA for a week. Then into OR, down the coast.

  4. Glad you had a good time in Forks. I think that was a much better choice than your original plan for Hoquiam.
    That orange fungus is amazing!

  5. AMAZING fungi!!! I agree with you about the logging and also went through a process of acceptance while visiting the PNW and learning what I could about it. It's sad to loose the real forest.

  6. What a fantastic time you two had in this new to us area. I am looking forward to one day visiting and using all this great information. I was so hoping for some pretty fungus but we didn't find anything but boring mushrooms around one of the lakes. You found some real beauties! It was plenty wet and damp with lots of ferns and moss.

    I feel the same way about clear cutting. The companies may replant but before the trees are big enough to hold the dirt, the mud is washing into the rivers and choking the fish. I, too, understand the need for the lumber industry but it doesn't make it easier to accept.

    Safe travels down the coast to your daughter's! Hope the sun stays with you:)

  7. What an awesome week...the hikes you chose had so much interest from the "natural" bridge to very pretty fungi! I share your opinions about the logging...
    I sure hope to be following in your footsteps next year...what a great resource!

  8. Fabulous fungi is right! We just came back from a hike on Lopez and I took a few photos of gigantic fungi here -- but nothing like that huge orange blaze you found! Thanks for the great hiking tips -- we're considering heading back to Ashland via the OP. The logging industry practices alway makes me sad and mad. I wish they would stop the short-sighted clear cutting and just do selective cutting.

  9. I love all your hikes in whatever trails the happy goofballs will take us. One day we will have our time and actually follow all your trails.
    The fungi also fascinates me that I bought a pamphlet with illustrations. I've seen a few here at Door County, WI

  10. Aren't those vine maples pretty? I'd never heard of them until this trip. Hoh was packed the day I was there too. Ugh! Come on Labor Day!!!

  11. Thanks for all the information you give on the hikes available in the area. Since we are planning a visit to WA next year, this will be invaluable. Love that photo of the orange fungus! You two goofballs look like very happy hikers!