Kirk and I celebrated our toddler,Walker, turning 3 this past weekend by a family trip to the coast and hiking in the rain forest.We had picked up two nights at Kalaloch Lodge for $99 a night in a cabin, which is a great price. And considering later winter/early spring is some of the best time to enjoy the Olympic Coastal strip, it was a nice trip. Unlike my birthday weekend at the start of the month, we had sunny weather and no rain.
The view of Kalaloch Creek, from the parking lot (and the view from the lodge dining room) is usually quite pretty. Ducks and seagulls floated in the water, cows parsnip and daffodils were blooming. And we got amazing dry weather once we arrived.
The lodging at Kalaloch is something special – in that there is nothing else out there. Only one bump along the lonely road. There is the rooms in the lodge, the cabins and at the far end a small hotel building. We ended up staying in the cabin next to the one we had stayed in last, 2 or so years ago. Part of the “Kalaloch Cabins” that sit second and third row, with the Bluff Cabins in front. The second row, like ours, actually has pretty decent views. And in the second row, the cabins are single buildings, so no neighbors!
We had stayed at Kalaloch before, when it was run by Armark. It is being run better now by DNC, at least to my eyes. I have a soft spot for the cabins. Especially when you get the type we had both times. They have a small kitchen (with nearly everything you could need for cooking), table and chairs, Franklin stove (you can get the cabin so hot you have to open the windows!) and they have a 3/4 wall divider letting dad n’ mom have a “room” and the kids all out in the main room. Not only that…but if you have a large family, you can pack 6 in a cabin.
The beach was wonderful on Friday night. It was clear and cold, with the moon up high.
We woke up Saturday morning and decided to head inland to the Hoh Rain Forest, in Olympic National Park. That was a good choice as the grey skies over the coast were sunny over the forest. It occurred to me that it had been a very long time since I had been there. Too long.At least 5 or 6 years. I used to go there a lot when I lived closer.
When Ford, my oldest, was a year old I visited the Hoh for the first time. It influenced me a lot. I have mentioned it before, I was 25 and didn’t have a clue that Washington State had temperate rain forests – till my Mom pestered me into taking her there. And that they could be so amazing. That trip I did a (painful) nature loop with my parents and brother, with Ford breaking my back in a crappy backpack.
I considered for like 10 seconds, of recreating the photo with a 15 year old teen on my back. Then I figured my back would be hurting like crazy after. So instead I shot a selfie of Alistaire and me, with him riding in his Deuter Kid Comfort III pack that most definitely does not hurt me. (The pack 14 years ago? An old Gerry one, a thrift store find for $1. Ouch.)
With the baby on my back, the teen way far ahead of us, Daddy and Walker strolled together. Little more makes me as happy as seeing my children hike, and more so…when Ford was with me on that first trip I had looked up the steps in the earth, that started the Hoh River Trail. And told myself I would come back and hike it, with him. We did, many times. This was Walkers first trip there. In the end he put in over 3 miles on his own. He made Momma proud.
It is hard to describe a PNW rain forest unless you stand there, in the early morning. Listening and breathing. Maybe you will encounter Elk. Or smell a cougar’s urine mark next to a stream. The sheer volume of animals is amazing.
But most of all is the thickness of the plants. Everywhere they grow, layers upon layers. The moss drapes over branches, dripping dew on you. Small spiders swing webs across the trees. Squirrels chatter angrily at humans.
We hiked with no real goals, until we came to a clearing that called to us, for a rest. Ford dug in and found my remaining Kind Bars. He really likes them. Great. I grabbed a Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew before he could. Delicious!
Looking upstream of the Hoh -
Coming back there was a tree lining the tree that was very, very long. It is slowly becoming a nurse log, every inch of that tree is covered in plants, little trees starting slowly:
Liberty Caps, growing strong. Mushrooms… beautiful, ugly and potentially nasty if you don’t know what you are looking at. I love looking at fungi when hiking, just from a distance.
A tiny, tiny Huckleberry plant, it was only a few inches tall.
Daddy and Walker, dwarfed by the trees -
I almost missed this fungi, nestled into the moss -
A crowded trail here is an empty trail back home. Part of the beauty of hiking in the Olympics. It was perfect early spring backpacking weather and we saw a couple small parties heading out.
After the hike, we stopped and shopped for gear while Walker napped (passed out from all that hiking….). Then we drove to Ruby Beach. I had avoided Ruby Beach for 5 years. It is one of of the Olympic Coasts prettiest beaches. I spread my Mother’s ashes at Ruby and wasn’t ready to go back. It seemed the right time for her to meet her grandsons. Maybe it isn’t the hiking of back then, but honestly I wouldn’t trade playing in the sand with my boys. I felt as if my Mom was sitting next to me, handing the boys sticks to play with.
Kirk went off and and walked the beach, doing a photo session.
I taught Walker how to build rock cairns (gotta have a hobby that annoys 1% of the hiker population…)
We hiked, we relaxed. It was as close to a vacation as we have gotten lately. And the views were easy on the eyes……