As we hiked the lower South fork of the Skokomish river yesterday I found myself wondering how to describe the lush greenness of the Olympic National Forest to someone who has never seen it. All that I could come up with was “Slap you in the face, knock you down and roll you around in a mud puddle GREEN!”
How to describe a green that is smooth and rough, soft and hard, springy and flat, shiny and matte? A forest full of so many shades of green that it is almost indescribable? Hunter, celery, sage, moss, spring, holly, shamrock, pine, chartreuse, fern.
Welcome to my world. This is why I love the great state of Washington.
I sometimes struggle to fit hiking into a typical weekend. I am, by nature, a very responsible person. Which means I always have an extensive list of things that I think must be done on a regular basis. Boring, grown-up things like house cleaning and grocery shopping. There is also a loooong list of projects that need to be done (I really need to finish the interior painting project that I started last year). Working full time means that most of this stuff gets crammed into the weekend. And, because I am responsible I sometimes have a difficult time “excusing” myself from the “things that need to be done.” But, Friday I looked at the weather report and it indicated a 10% chance of rain on Saturday. 10%!!! That’s huge this time of year. So, I asked the husband if he wanted to go hiking and he agreed.
We decided to head to the lower fork of the Skokomish river for a couple of reasons: 1. proximity to the homestead (it’s a little over an hour) and 2. it’s a relatively level, relatively easy 8 or so miles, which makes for a nice winter hike when your legs aren’t used to the trail.
We reached the trailhead around 8:30. It was empty!!! Being the first people to a trailhead is, I swear, one of the greatest joys of life. We packed up, laced up and headed out.
Here’s where I made my first error. My pack. Good grief, you would think I’m a mule with the amount of crap I had in that thing. I’m going to have to find a balance between photography gear and the essentials of hiking, because my upper back and shoulders are sore today. Obviously, the ten essentials need to stay in the pack. Though, I think that instead of packing two full bottles of water I should start carrying one and rely on the water filter for refills. Most of the places we hike, with the exception of the Mt. St. Helens area, do not lack for water. Lots of water.
But, I took my big lens yesterday (70-200mm) and didn’t even pull it out of the pack. I think I need to be thoughtful about where we’re hiking and choose which lens will best suit my needs for the day. The 50mm worked great yesterday, and will work great for most hiking excursions.
I also took my tripod, the MeFoto Roadtrip, which is a relatively light tripod (3.6 lbs)and, at around 16 inches when completely folded up, is very compact. But, I left it in its case. In the future I think I’ll just strap the tripod itself to my pack. I also need to, again, consider where we’re hiking. Yesterday I knew there was a river and lots of small waterfalls and I wanted to use the neutral density filter, so I knew I would need the full tripod. However, I also need to think about those times I might be able to get away with just a monopod (which it converts to) or no tripod at all.
Anyways, bottom line: too much weight in the pack.
Back to the hike.
The trail climbs via switchbacks to the top of a ridge line right off the bat, but that’s really the only gain for the rest of the four miles in. We dropped back to the river on the other side. It’s one of the things I like about this particular trail: water, water everywhere. Many small streams to cross (some trickier than others, particularly since it’s still early in the season. I’m happy to report that we only got wet on the very last crossing on our return. And, frankly, we were being sloppy and lazy at that point), the river close for most of the trail. The Skokomish is a beautiful river along this stretch. Swift and clear, she’s quick to erode banks and flood the area.
The sound of water is the music of the hike, and everywhere you look….green. Moss hangs from trees, fluttering in the breeze. Moss-covered maples, massive and old, stand proudly, awaiting the return of their leaves. Moss crawls up the sides of massive fir trees. And everywhere are buds as the forest awakens and marches toward spring. It is a sight to behold.
We slogged through streams and around streams. Near the river, then climbing above the river, losing sight of it behind trees, then dropping back to its side. We clambered over and under quite a few fallen trees, remnants of winter storms. It’s early in the season…work groups for the Washington Trail Association have yet to hit the trails (I always realize just how much I appreciate those hard-working people when we’re on a trail that has yet-to-be-cleared).
Our destination was Camp Comfort, an overnight destination for many before it was washed away during flooding in the winter of 2007. Some still hike in and camp in the general vicinity–we were passed on the trail by a group of young men who had set up camp by the time we reached the area. We gave their camp wide berth, simply being polite, and made our way near the riverbank where we pulled up a large log and unpacked our picnic lunch. Why does a simple sandwich taste so good when eaten on a hike?
At that point, the weather had been quite good. A mix of sun and clouds, which made for a comfortable hike. As we turned back I nodded towards some clouds and asked the husband, “Fog or rain?” “Looks like rain,” he responded. So much for our 10%. It started to sprinkle, but we were, again, deep in the trees, so didn’t really notice.
We stopped on a wooden bridge spanning a particularly delicious waterfall so I could set up the tripod and play for a bit. By the time I finished it had started to rain more steadily. Two bridges later we stopped again, but it was a short session as I became tired of trying to keep my lens dry. So, I packed up the tripod and we trekked on down the trail.
To be honest, the weather was still gorgeous…even with the rain. The rain wasn’t really serious, and it would stop and the sun would emerge. Which meant that the green became greener. And sparkly. And the sun would shoot rays through the trees. Really can’t complain about that.
We came off the trail, groaning a bit about muscles that have not been used much this winter. Gym time definitely has a different feel than trail time. I, again, wished I had remembered to pack a beer in a cooler in the trunk for immediate post-hike gratification. Someday I’ll remember to do that. We ravaged the remainder of the snacks floating around in the bottom of the lunch bag and headed home. Satisfied. Dazzled by green and rushing water.