The Accidental Search for Big Trees!

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October 12th 2006
Published: October 15th 2006
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The Accidental Search for Big Trees!

Points of Interest for Day Thirty Five – October 12, 2006

For all those who were wondering about the 64 thousand dollar question from yesterday… We know, most of you weren’t, but just in case - there doesn’t seem to be any lasting damage to Carl’s knees… Just the scrapes and a few bruises! In this town where the annual rainfall is 175 inches, we considered ourselves lucky to wake up to a clear sky - perfect weather for visiting the rainforest?...


Starting Destination: Forks, Washington
Ending Destination: Yelm, Washington
Ending Destination GPS: N: 46° 56.332’ W: 122° 35.885’ Elev: 308’
Miles Driven: 262.1
Distance Walked: 2 miles (3.2 km)
Most Interesting Business Name: Hard Rain Café (left)

The First Big Tree

Our first destination for the day was the Hoh Rainforest, yes rainforest. The flora and fauna of Olympic National Park is very diverse - it ranges from the rainforest on the western sides and along the coast, to the mountains of the middle and the associated snow, ice and glaciers, and then to the drier (due to the rain shadow) eastern side - each environment with the associated plants, animals and… But, that is getting ahead of the story!
The Hoh rainforest is supposed to be home to a large population of Roosevelt Elk, thus we thought if we were lucky we might see some… But, it was not to be. We drove into the park on one of the spoke roads, along the banks of the Hoh River, past the Hard Rain Café and several other businesses and into the park. Mostly the trip felt like you were driving through this tunnel of trees, however, the trip was interspersed with some views of the sky—where land had been clear-cut, when the road ran directly alongside the river (due to the increased rainfall the river channel was about 10 times wider than that of the Sol Duc River that we saw yesterday), in man-made clearings for agriculture and in swamp areas (far left). But mostly it was wet, that everything is damp even though it is dry kind of wet - the roads were wet, the ground was wet, the plants were wet; and there was moss growing everywhere, even on top of the public phone!
Along the way we stopped at the “Big Sitka Spruce Tree,” and it was huge - it was barely possible to get it all in one photo, but only if you stood out in the road to do it! Thankfully, there were no cars coming at that time; but we did look-up after the brief walk on the path around the tree and to the river and find that another car with a Sedgwick County license plate parked next to ours - it is a small world!! We followed the road to the end and briefly considered doing one of the walks—but the one we really thought would be cool was an 18 mile walk to Blue Glacier. Blue glacier is unique in that it moves up to 5 inches per day. However, this was a little over our time limit and we were kind of deterred by the comment on one of the information boards that went kind of like this: “Use shelters only for emergencies. Remember, rain is not an emergency!”

The Next Big Tree

We retraced our steps then continued on Highway 101 towards the coast. It wasn’t long before we encountered this sign: Big Cedar - Duncan Cedar, turn left… So we did. About five miles down increasingly rough roads we drove through the forest, past trees of all different ages ’till we turned the corner and straight ahead of us was this huge tree. It probably looked bigger as most of the trees surrounding it had been clear-cut at one point and were re-growing. Which is almost more than can be said for the “World’s Largest Western Red Cedar,” as you can see from the picture, there was hardly any bark and only hints of green at the top. Someone had “enterprisingly” added to the sign a comment (which an attempt has been made to erase) to the effect: “This tree would still be alive today if all the other trees of similar age had not been clear-cut.” Who knows what would have happened…

Finding the Fog

Part of Olympic National Park is along the coast - as we steadily approached we started seeing what looked like fog? Yes, it was fog… We stopped at Ruby Beach and walked down to the beach hoping that it would clear near the ocean, but it was not to be… Everything had this eerie look to it and all the photo’s we took look Black-and-white instead of color… Not at all the beach we were expecting! We drove down the coast hoping that by the time the road started inland again the sun would have burnt off the fog… We even ate our lunch looking out over the ocean at one of the campgrounds, but it was not to be… We are sure that we will see the Pacific Ocean wearing many guises before this trip is over! It was at one of these stops that we collected a hitch-hiker… A caterpillar that didn’t make itself known ’till it started crawling down Maria’s arm - a very interesting experience that she didn’t extend long enough to take a photo… deciding instead to roll down the window and eject the unwelcome visitor.

Lots of Big Trees

After running along the beach, Highway 101 turns inland towards the last part of Olympic Park that is directly accessible, around Quinault Lake… We weren’t going to investigate as we were kind of “rainforested” out by that stage. However, there was this sign along the road indicating this way to the world’s largest spruce tree… We just had to investigate! After a 5 mile drive and a ½ mile walk, we arrived at the “World’s Largest Sitka Spruce Tree,” this one even had the AFA (American Forrest Association) points total to prove it. We are not sure what the AFA Points total is, but Carl thinks it is something similar to Boone & Crockett, but for trees! At least this one had more green and actually looked alive… But it also had a sign saying that also in the area also were the 3 World’s Largest Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Mountain Hemlock Trees and 2 of the US Largest Yellow Cedar and Western Hemlock trees; Find out more by picking up a brochure… By this time, we just “had” to investigate… Thankfully, when we got the brochure, we found that only one of the other big trees was accessible without a minimum 7 mile hike - probably a good thing or we would still be there… After debating the merits - we bit the bullet, retraced our steps and looked for the ‘World’s Largest Western Red Cedar.” This kind of intrigued us as we thought we had already seen that tree today and it wasn’t at the same location. So after an advertised “short walk,” that turned out to be probably ½ mile and 200+ steps we arrived at “the tree.” Now we are not the AFA, but to our eyes it looked smaller than the one we had seen earlier… Plus we had to look really hard to see any green at all!

Finishing off the Day

Unfortunately, the “Big Tree Caper” had kind of put us behind in “making the most of the weather.” So our next plan was to drive as far as we could towards our next destination: Mount Rainier… We continued on Highway 101, to Highway 8, 12, Interstate 5, and Highway 512; ignoring things we might have investigated further - the multitude of lifting bridges in Aberdeen, the Nuclear Power Plant and the Wildlife Refuge… We ended up the night in Yelm at the only hotel in the area - where we splurged on Mexican Food for dinner and called it a night!

What’s your opinion about trees? Part Two

Today really challenged my opinions… We passed through many areas that had been clear-cut - some right to the boundary of the National Park/National Forrest, some recently cut with these interesting piles of tree branches topped with a plastic “hat,” some actively managed (see advertising left), some obviously re-planted and others just as obviously not… The real challenge was that area where it looked like every tree within sight had been clear-cut during the past 5 years… I keep telling myself it is just like any other crop - some farmers do better at management and conservations than others… Some times it helps others it doesn’t.

Carl’s Travel Trivia

Yesterday’s Answer: Cape Flattery
Today’s Question: In which state are the worlds tallest trees located?


16th October 2006

I'm gonna say California.
16th October 2006

Tree response
Darn, and we were hoping this would be a little sneaky... P.s. You are correct!

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