I've been saving the best for last.
Or, more honestly, putting off an attempt to describe a place I cannot find words for.
A place that is felt from the inside, out—sensed, more than merely seen.
A place with which, though printed images and words abound, the first real encounter steals your breath--
and leaves awe where imagination had been.
I’ve been waiting for words to find me.
As if closing a door to the rest of the world, the space within is quiet--
with a stillness that aches in your ears.
And sounds of great time’s passing.
The dense ground drinks all in,
hushed by centuries’ collection of needles.
Mosses woven together.
The rich tapestry rolled, unending, from one end of this evergreen forest to the other.
Softly shaded by curtains, rich tones of gold and green,
the only scattered spots of light, small gaps at the extreme reach of the treetops, 250 feet above.
As with light cast through the small stained-glass windows of a cathedral,
the eye is drawn upward into vastness.
Each trunk, tall and straight, many with bare branches below,
only distinguishable from each other by the textures of their bark,
or shape of their broadly reaching roots.
Many wide with age,
others barely born.
The tallest trees, their roots broad but shallow,
fed by the abundant rains of almost 150 inches each year, easily toppled—
yield life to the next generation.
Mounds of ferns cascade from pockets of dark soil held between the roots of the large fallen giants.
Each rootwad, a wall quickly filled
by the small plants eagerly nosing their way into the smallest vulnerable crevice.
Mosses crawl, in greens of a million descriptions,
to cover the long fallen trunks, their spreading fingers in textures furry and soft, jagged and spiky.
The seeds caught beneath them from the trees above, seeking shelter in the deeply furrowed bark. Establishing their beginnings upon the fallen giant, then buttressing themselves against time, anchoring beyond to the forest floor.
Until in long rows they stand, colonnades clearly recounting this history,
towering reverently over the crumbling forms having given them life,
A narrow path winds on,
between the massive rootwads,
spanning pools of dark water.
Heavy slabs of cedar, a footpath protecting sacred ground.
Beyond the tops of sword fern, the forest unfolds,
interrupted only by sheets of hanging moss draped majestically from the otherwise barren branches.
Foxglove and clusters of horsetail fill the occasional sunlit spot.
To stand within such a place,
be lifted high by the roots of a thousand-year trees,
as they brace themselves on the shore of the sea.
To look up at the sky through their branches, and behold--
This is the Hoh Rain Forest.
Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum
Deer Fern, Blechnum spicant
Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menzieseii
Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea
Horsetail, Equisetum arvense
Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum sp.
Methuselah's Beard, Usnea longissima
Red Huckleberry, Vaccinium parvifolium
Sitka Spruce, Picea sitchensis
Sword Fern, Polystichum munitum
Trefoil Foamflower, Tiarella trifoliata
Vine Maple, Acer circinatum
Western Hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla
Western Redcedar, Thuja plicata
To view static, labeled images, visit my Flickr site.