by Jim and Melanie
On our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, we ranged from Tacoma, WA at the north end to Portland, OR at the south. We shared a little about the C-17 cargo planes at McChord Air Force Base and about Portland Art Museum’s exhibit on burly antique cars. Between those two, we also enjoyed lower-tech experiences.
The Temperate Rain Forest
From Tacoma WA, we drove along I-5 to Olympia, where we headed west on highways 8 and 12 toward the Pacific coast. Route 101 then took us north. Before we turned west, a sign pointed to the Quinault Rain Forest trailhead nearby. The coastal plain geography meets the Olympic Mountains at that location. The gain in elevation of the moisture-laden air causes large amounts of rainfall in the region, between 10 and 15 feet a year, resulting in a temperate rain forest.
Four temperate rain forest canopies lie on the west side of the Olympic Mountains. This trail looped around a very small portion of Quinault.
Douglas firs, western red cedar, Pacific silver fir, Sitka spruce, and western hemlock abound. Though the trees stretch into the sky, open canopy allows streams of sunlight to reach the forest floor. The understory has fern, devil’s club, curtains of moss, Indian-Plum, salmonberry, thimbleberry, blueberry, and wild blackberry bush. Their flowers nourish the rufous hummingbird and bees. Wildflowers such as bear grass, skunk-cabbage, twisted-stalk, trillium, bleeding heart, Indian paintbrush, and bunchberry can be found. Mushrooms and lichens abound in the dampness.
Everywhere we looked there were ferns, mosses, trees growing tall, and rotting logs serving as nurse trees for other plants. This spectacular old stump covered by another tree caught our attention. It looked like intricate sculpture, or like George Nakashima furniture.
Patches of Devil’s Club caught sunlight with their huge leaves. Red berries on top were the only part of the plant not covered with spines and thorns. Quoting from a story by Tom Heutte telling of his encounter with the plant…
It has been employed for a staggeringly broad variety of uses, ranging from fishhooks and lures to using its charcoal as a base for tattoo ink. The variety of traditional medicines made from this cousin of Panax (ginseng) is staggering as well, having been used for everything from arthritis and tuberculosis to deodorant and to treat lice. More skookum (powerful) applications included purification and cleansing, combating witchcraft and attainment of supernatural powers. Western herbalists and mainstream pharmaceutical researchers have taken an interest in devil’s club potential for among other things, regulation of blood sugar for the treatment of diabetes.
The Pacific Coast
After the rain forest we drove west to the coast and stopped at Kalaloch Lodge north of Queets. The low grey clouds capped the grey beach strewn with grey logs and driftwood. It might sound dull and boring. Instead, the mood it set was perfect.
Tangles of ancient trees were tossed carelessly on the beach, as if by some unseen giant hand.
The lodge restaurant gave a comfortable site to recover from the brisk air on the beach. A huge bowl of clam chowder with two spoons provided a bit more comfort.
After visiting the beach, we backtracked eastward in the Peninsula to Union, WA. Our next post describes that stop.