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Hoh Rain Forest

Day 3 of 3

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Tuesday, September 14th
Hoh River Camp to Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center
12.6 miles
430 vertical feet (ascent)
1040 vertical feet (descent)

We wanted to get up at 6am, but it was hard to do that when it was still relatively dark outside. In fact, during the middle of the night I had woken up and noticed it was pitch black in our tent. I've never experienced such darkness in my tent before. Usually there's some moonlight, direct or indirect. But there was nothing. Just darkness.

We finally got up at 6:40am. I filtered water again, for the 5th time on the trip. In retrospect, perhaps it took so long to filter because of the glacial flour. Once back home, I opened up my filter to clean it and it was covered by this ugly gray color -- the dirtiest I've ever seen it.

We started our hike back at 9:21am. I shortly made a stop at my water filtering spot to take a picture. I'd spent almost two hours there filtering water, and it was actually quite a pretty spot. The gray river, perhaps 30 feet wide at this point, rushes by. On the opposite shore is beautiful green moss-covered ground and a forest of trees.

My water-filtering spot

Unlike the previous two days, there were actually a few wisps of clouds in the morning. Still, nothing to worry about. We started back toward the visitor center at record pace.

Despite the fact that we'd been on the same trail two days earlier, it was different. Everything looks different in reverse, and at different times of the day. Whereas it'd been getting dark by the time we'd traveled this part of the trail before, now it was early morning and the lighting was beautiful. Everything seemed to glow bright green.

Planks leading the way back toward the visitor center

We certainly encountered more people today than the previous day, but not as many as on Sunday. We also seemed to encounter more day hikers than backpackers this time. It also never ceases to amaze me how little some day hikers carry with them.

We stopped every hour or two for a quick bite to eat. Other than that, we didn't rest much. Around 4 or 5 miles from the visitor center we encountered a lone backpacker coming in the opposite direction. He mentioned that he'd seen a small black bear just sitting by the side of the trail. For the next mile we talked, sang, and generally made noise to make sure any such bear would know we were coming. Half of me (the half carrying the camera) wanted to see the bear, and half of me (the half fearing for my life) didn't want to. We never did see a bear.

The Hoh River surrounded by gravel bars

We were hoping to stop at the waterfall again for a food break, but we reached Tom Creek Meadows first. It's funny that I hadn't even noticed it on the way in (I was chasing after Jean at the time). It is quite beautiful. There's a side trail which crosses a foot bridge over the creek and wanders out into the meadow. Presumably the trail leads all the way out to the Hoh River shore, but we didn't take the time to explore it.

A few minutes past the meadows is the waterfall. Again, I saw something I hadn't noticed on the way in. There's a cascading waterfall at the bottom, which I had noticed, but there was a much larger waterfall high above it. The reason I hadn't noticed it before is that it was around a corner of the hillside. I wouldn't have noticed it unless I knew it was there, or turned my head back over my left shoulder.

These trees reminded me of snowshoeing past trees draped with snow in the winter. Use your imagination (I know, they look like ship masts).

Nearing the finish I noticed some movement on the ground. Amongst all the 1-inch tree needles was a small worm, carefully camouflaged to look exactly like one of the needles. If it hadn't moved, there wouldn't have been any way to distinguish it. While I was observing it, a couple walked by and joined in. We got to talking a bit. They'd just been to Mt. Rainier, which we were planning on visiting in a few days. They heartily recommended the Skyline Trail at Paradise. We made a note of that before parting ways.

Soon we reached the information board near the start of the trail (or the end of the trail for us). On a sad note, I noticed a memorial notice on the board. A hiker had died on August 11th; he'd been exploring off-trail near Glacier Meadows and had apparently fallen. Just another reminder to always be alert.

A few minutes later we were back at the visitor center, having done 35 miles in 3 days -- my longest backpacking trip yet. It was a beautiful trip. Jean loved how green it was. But I'll admit to liking views more. Perhaps I'll get those views on the High Divide Loop, north of the Hoh Rain Forest, another time.

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