Spring is prime time to visit ‘other’ rain forests (with spirit of Dr. Seuss)
When it comes to Pacific coastal rain forests, the Hoh gets all the attention, but drippy springtime is the perfect season to visit the many other rain forests in the region.
Special to The Seattle Times
I like to imagine myself with Dr. Seuss whenever I spend time in a Pacific coastal rain forest. What strange and marvelous worlds would that man conjure if he spent an hour among the plant colonies thriving on a nurse log or tree branch?
Tree-lichen kingdoms and moss-bearded giants would surely find their way into his imagination (and mine) when I stroll with him. It’s not difficult to play the game because temperate rain forests are so rich with unusual nooks and crannies, and chock full of amazing little critters.
There are waxy things, slippery things, odd smelling things, and in spring, you’ll find lots and lots of green. Wherever you look, you see walls of green, green, green. It’s no wonder I think of oobleck.
Rain forests constitute around 6 percent of the earth’s surface, and most of that is in the Amazon. Unlike their tropical cousins, Pacific coastal rain forests receive most of their moisture seasonally, meaning spring is the time of year when everything explodes with a million shades of green.
Contrary to popular belief, the Hoh isn’t the only rain forest in our region. Here are five others worth a look — reaching into Canada — and what Dr. Seuss might like about them.
Great Bear Rain Forest
On the British Columbia mainland near the north end of Vancouver Island is one of the largest remaining temperate rain forests in the world. The Great Bear Rain Forest is home to 1,000-year-old cedar trees as well as whales, wolves and bears, not to mention some of the best salmon fishing on the planet.
Waves crash against sandy beaches, but the glacial-hewn valleys and deep fjords lend to the nickname “Yosemite by the sea.” Bear watching, fishing, hiking and hot springs are usually accessed by sailboat and kayak, or via fly-in lodges.
What Dr. Seuss would like: The mysterious white “spirit bear.” A Kermode bear is actually a black bear with a rare genetic combination that gives it a stark blonde appearance.
Forests around Clayoquot Sound are slammed with more than 10 feet of rain every year. The result: one of the wettest, richest and loamiest places on the planet.
Pacific Rim National Park, near Tofino, is one of North America’s most exquisite untouched rain forests. A variety of boardwalk hikes and beach trails can be found just off the main road. As a bonus, Tofino is quietly home to some of the best surfing and four-star hotels on the West Coast.
What Dr. Seuss would like: Home to big mammals such as bears, wolves and cougars that hunt in the forest and beaches alike.
If you go: On the remote West Coast of Vancouver Island, it’s a trek to get there but totally worth it. Take a ferry from the B.C. mainland to Nanaimo and drive 3.5 hours across Vancouver Island. Find high-end accommodations at the luxurious Wickaninnish Inn (www.wickinn.com) and the ethereal Pacific Sands Beach Resort (www.pacificsands.com).
The spectacular Wild Pacific Trail near the town of Ucluelet, B.C., is a moderate 5.3-mile path ducking in and out of rain-forest habitat and jaw-dropping coastal cliffs.
All of it is offered on a platter of jagged coast and carpet-moss woodland that is obtainable for any reasonably fit person. Viewing platforms provide an array of sights and sounds for hikers.
What Dr. Seuss would like: Ancient spruces and cedars make their homes on the edges of stunning cliffs.
If you go: 45 minutes south of Tofino.
An hour south of Forks, you’ll find the soggy Lake Quinault area, home to a reflective lake, an old homestead, Roosevelt elk and plenty of lush, dripping trails.
Activity is centered on the picturesque Lake Quinault Lodge, which is a great place to warm up with a cup of cocoa after a wet stroll. Lake Quinault is a good alternative to the Hoh if you’re driving on Highway 101 since it’s much closer to the highway.
What Dr. Seuss would like: The world’s largest-known spruce tree, at 191 feet tall and more than 58 feet around (see photo).
If you go: 40 miles north of Hoquiam, off Highway 101. Fishing gear, canoe, kayak and rowboat rentals available. Reach the giant spruce, as well as the largest-known Western red cedar (174 feet tall and 19.5 feet around), within a short drive or walk from the lodge. Reservations at olympicnationalparks.com/accommodations/lake-quinault-lodge.
A very different looking rain forest from what you’ll see in the Hoh, the Ozette triangle is a great boardwalk hike for beginners. From the parking lot it’s a flat 9-mile loop that spends 6 miles in the forest and 3 miles along the rugged beach. Camping is possible on the coastal section of the hike, by arrangement with Ozette ranger station (it’s in Olympic National Park).
If boating is more your speed, nearby Lake Ozette is Washington’s third-largest lake and offers backcountry camping to kayakers, canoeists and other flotsam.
What Dr. Seuss would like: While looking for whales and scouring tide pools, he would glance up and notice the 300-year-old petroglyphs carved into rocks.If you go: Two hours west of Port Angeles. The trail begins at the lake’s north end. See www.nps.gov/olym
Seattle-based freelancer Jeff Layton has traveled to more than 75 countries as a journalist, photographer and tour leader. He blogs at www.MarriedToAdventure.com.