Posted tagged ‘Olympic Peninsula’

Rain Forest Rhapsody

February 22, 2012

The western edge of Washington is home to vast expanses of temperate rain forests, and if you get a chance to see them, jump at it. It’s a soggy, mud boot-wearing world out there,


a place where moss will overtake anything that stands still,

growing like Pinocchio’s nose until it sags wetly to the ground.

It’s a lonely place, and people live there in a splendid isolation that’s rare these days.

If they live there until their time runs out, they can spend the rest of forever similarly splendid, similarly isolated, and I’m thinking that the kind of person who lives out there in the first place is probably comforted by that thought.

There are people, though, who try to tame that wilderness, even if they do have elk tromping through their back yard. Elk?

The forest is also home to several herds of Roosevelt elk,

who must have the cutest butts of anyone within miles. They’re used to people, but they’re shy. We stopped to see them, drove ahead to turn around, hoping to see more of their faces, and by the time we got back, some three minutes later, they were entirely vanished. We were so happy to have started our day with them, and we headed back to the lodge for breakfast, all chipper and bushy-tailed ourselves.

But all is not idyllic in the rain forest – we saw these signs everywhere, protesting a plan to create more Wild and Scenic River areas, as well as Scenic Wilderness Areas. You can read more about that here, if you’re interested. We ourselves were more interested in this sign

because, well, who wouldn’t want to see the world’s largest anything tree? I wanted to cuddle right up to one

and so here I am, in my bright red Valentine’s shirt, nestled into its roots. The red shirt is important, because

here I am again. See those little red pixels at the base of the tree? That’s me. It’s amazing what a wide-angle lens can do.

For comparison, here’s Shel next to the upturned rootball of another spruce, which must have been a whole lot smaller, even though still enormous.

These were my favorite roots of the day, at once sinister and elegant.

The fallen trunks and roots are home to a host of fungi, quite elegant in their own right,

even though some of them look extra-terrestrial,

as does this lacy lichen,

and this other lovely, lettuce-y lichen.

We didn’t get to see this red-backed truffle-eating vole, but I sure wish we had.

In all our wandering in the rainforest, this was the only spot of brightness we encountered.

That, and these beautiful words attributed to Chief Seattle:

This we know,
The Earth does not belong to man:
Man belongs to the earth.
All things are connected,
Like the blood that unites one family.
What befalls the earth
Befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.
Man did not weave the web of life.
He is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web
He does to himself.

Think about it.


Love In A Lodge

February 18, 2012

For Valentine’s Day  Shel and I decided to take a little road trip, about 400 miles round trip, and spend the night in romantic Lake Quinault Lodge. It’s the kind of place where a Roosevelt’s Elk head presides over an always-roaring fire

that we don’t have to tend ourselves. A fire that’s surrounded by lazy couples reading, drinking, napping, bickering, and in our case, playing checkers. We only play checkers in National Park lodges, which is to say, practically never. Thus we don’t even really know the rules, and definitely are not strategic players. But we have lots of fun at it, and especially I do, because, inexplicably, I often win. I won’t say much more about that, except: going into dinner that night, Shel having disappeared, I said to another guy waiting to be seated “I’ve lost my husband.” And he said “it’s no wonder, after the way you totally kicked his butt at checkers this afternoon!” So there.

We were hanging out inside at the lodge all afternoon because it’s not really boating season,

and even if it had been, the whole reason we were there was because Shel wanted to be in a lodge, reading by the fire.

Of course, he didn’t mention wanting to get his butt kicked at checkers, but hey, it was my Valentine’s Day too!

While he was reading, I took the camera out to show you the beautiful lodge area.

The lodge itself was built in 1926 and has been carefully maintained since FDR visited it in 1937.

Maintenance isn’t easy, since the area gets 12 feet of rain per year, on average. 12 feet is where the green turns to blue, on this rain guage, right at the level of the top of the doors on the first floor.

You wouldn’t think that anything could be dry there, but this hydrangea would prove you wrong.

Just down the road a piece from the lodge was the general store, where they apparently have whatever you want,

and the Mercantile, where firewood at $4.50 an armload benefits the Lion’s Club.

But really, why would you even want to venture out, when you could snuggle up in a cosy sofa with your loved one and gaze up at this gorgeous ceiling? (photo courtesy of my own Best Beloved)

Or a bit later, at dinner, gaze into this bewitching candle light?

As we got up to leave for the evening the group of other couples, many older than we, just a few young ones, softly, shyly, called out Happy Valentines Day to those who were departing, each couple happy, no doubt, to pass the night in the blissful company of the one they loved most. I know we were.

And in the morning, fortified by a gigantic Lodge breakfast, we ventured out into the Quinault Rain Forest, which is what we’ll see next. Eat a pancake or three to get in the mood and come along with us.

Je T’Aime

February 13, 2012

It’s a thing that confounds English speakers, what exactly je t’aime means. It’s I love you, of course. But it’s not “I like you”, as so many people hope, and blunder into.  That’s je t’aime bien, which seems like I love you well, but is really the more prosaic, less comitted, I like you. I remember a French friend who told me “he said he loves me, he said je t’aime” and I was obliged to ask whether he’d said it in English or French, knowing that his French wasn’t up to accomodating the difference between je t’aime and je t’aime bien. As I’d suspected, he meant that he liked her, but she thought that he loved her. Thus are international incidents born, and disappointment, and heart ache.

Shel and I though, we love each other, and we like each other. Most of the time, and those other times, well, we’ve learned to live through them. Tomorrow will be our 18th Valentine’s day together. It seems unimaginable. So many times we’ve thought he was dying. A couple of times we’ve thought we were giving up on the whole thing, this togetherness thing, this for better or worse thing. It’s been better, and it’s been worse. And that’s the real life part of it all, we just hang on and stick it out and here we are 18 years later, not wanting to be anywhere else. Wherever we are, that’s home, because home is being together, whether in France or America, at the end of the day our pillows are side by side. In France our pillowcases are ironed, in America they’re not. In America Beppo and Zazou sleep on our bed, in France they often don’t. In France we don’t always understand every word people say to us, in America we don’t always understand every word we say to each other.

What I want is an ironed pillowcase with Beppo sleeping right beside it. To always be together in perfect harmony, perfect understanding. A fusion of our two lives, the best of each world. I want us to love and like each other all the time, in every language, with and without cats by our sides.

Tomorrow we’re going away for a little Valentine’s Day excursion, to Lake Quinault, on the Olympic Peninsula. Shel’s craving a Northwest lodge feeling, checkers by the fire, heavy wooden beams overhead. I’m craving a mossy rain forest, even if it is raining. And yes, a glass or two of wine by that huge fire, a car trip where we’re side by side for hours, just the two of us.

In a couple of days I’ll show you the Olympic Peninsula. I don’t think I’ll be showing you the love, I’m selfish that way. But sitting in front of that fire, under those huge fir beams, safe and warm, away from the dripping moss and the bugling elk, I’ll be thinking of love, yours, mine, ours. I hope you’ll be doing the same.