Olympic National Park would’ve been amazing any time of the year, but it was particularly awesome during our visit because we had the entire park to ourselves. With majestic seascapes and soaring evergreens dripping with moss, it was like wandering onto the set of the Lord of the Rings. It’s possible the snow and frigid temperatures had something to do with the lack of tourists, but it hardly kept us from enjoying nature’s beauty.
If you can see past my poor camera’s exposure capabilities, you can begin to understand how disgustingly beautiful this place is. Just off the highway was a trail leading to the beach, and a small wooden bridge spanning a creek because it simply wasn’t picturesque enough without an adorable bridge leading to the rocky shore. And then, driftwood! Driftwood as far as the eye could see! Like, so much my driftwood-coveting mom would’ve surely swooned right there on the sand.
The enormous growths on these spruce trees are called “burls,” as in Burl Ives, only they’re not as holly jolly. Trees form burls after an injury or if they’ve contracted a nasty virus or fungus. These growths are a reminder of how the natural world is a masterwork in the absence of human interference.
Our main objective was to make it to the Hoh Rainforest before sunset, so we didn’t have a lot of time to frolic on random stops along the way. Still, I couldn’t help but shriek every other mile for my husband to pull over so I could take pictures the prehistoric-looking trees and ferns under the feathery snow.
The thing about these towering forests is you can’t get a decent picture of them. I grew more and more frustrated with my point and shoot camera as the scenery exploded with obscene beauty. There’s no way to articulate their majesty in photos. It’s like trying to replicate the Mona Lisa with washable markers. This quote from God, a.k.a. John Steinbeck, perfectly sums up my sentiments: “The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” Though Steinbeck may be referring to the California Sequoias, this quote is more than applicable when it comes to the woody skyscrapers of Olympic National Park. What’s more, unlike every single time I’ve ever visited Sequoia National Park, there weren’t tourists crawling all over the trees, giving it the illusion of an unspoiled fairyland.
There was only one other car in the parking lot when we finally reached the Hoh Rainforest. Amongst the trees lived the most soul-enriching silence. You couldn’t hear any traffic, or people, or any signs that civilization existed. Pure magnificence. The snow only frosted the blinding greenery, not obscuring it, freezing this emerald wonderland in a ghostly glaze. The scenery looked too magical, too breathtaking, to be real. I half-expected a satyr to leap out of the ferns and start jabbering to me about a secret quest.
How fortunate the people of Washington are to have this amazing forest. I’ve traveled to many of America’s most beautiful places, and this ranks near the top of my favorites. I can’t wait to come back and explore it more, when my toes won’t be in danger of breaking off in the cold. There are other similar forests in Washington and Oregon I didn’t get to visit, which will broaden my explorations on future trips. The nice thing about missing sites on your first visit is it gives you a reason to come back. Washington gave me plenty of incentives to return.