40. Hall of Mosses, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic Peninsula, Washington DSC_8684,  2.28.2024.jpg

Hall of Mosses, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Amid Washington State's Olympic Mountain Range, the Hoh Rainforest shelters ancient stands of coniferous and deciduous trees, most notably along its Hall of Mosses Trail. One of the best-preserved temperate rainforests in the world, its stable ecosystem is maintained by a steady flow of moist air off the Pacific Ocean. It delivers abundant rainfall of twelve feet annually in the cooler seasons and ample sunshine in the drier summer.

It is both a lush and very quiet place. Sound engineers have identified a spot in this forest where you will hear the least human-produced sounds in the United States. While exploring this area, I've only ever heard the occasional group of hikers conversing on the trail, as well as the rare but intrusive Navy fighter planes passing overhead. Otherwise, the ambient sounds characteristic of this forest are the 'morning chorus' of birds in the summer and winter's falling rain.

The best time to walk the Hall of Mosses Trail is during the wet seasons between November and April when its colors are most vibrant. The open, light-filled grove provided by the taller, well-spaced conifers and the fertile soil harbors a mature stand of large, big-leaf maple trees. The trail is named after this celebrated grove with its trunks and branches clothed in mosses – especially clubmoss and slender mouse-tail moss – and the ground carpeted with sword ferns. The stances of the tree trunks and expressive gestures of their limbs in this congregation of maples conjure a sense of their sentience.

- James Baker