Rain world

Hike the Olympic Peninsula off-season

Most people, inexplicably, choose not to hike the Olympic Peninsula rain forests in the rain. In July, when precipitation averages a miserly 2.72 inches, 4,000 people bustle through the Olympic National Park Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center each day. Barely 50 a day brave December's 20.29-inch drenching.

I'm among those brave few, day-hiking the Hoh in its honest wet and gloom. And it's a revelation. Every surface ― every leaf, twig, and scrap of bark ― glistens and strains to reflect the struggling light, so the entire forest seems polished. And what appears at first to be numbing monochromaticism, a tyranny of chlorophyll, turns out to be a richly endowed spectrum of greens: the deep emerald of licorice fern, the wan olive of hanging club moss, the turquoise of Sitka spruce needles.

The constant drip and patter is soothing, like a pulse. My secret to feeling comfortable ― aside from head-to-toe waterproof clothes ― is simply accepting my environment as it is, rather than wishing for something else.

Note that I said day-hiking. You don't want to camp. The park's nearby Kalaloch Lodge offers warm, dry rooms. Also, December's deluge might be over the top. But April's 9.68 inches is just amply damp.

Olympic National Park Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center ($10 per vehicle; 360/374-6925). Kalaloch Lodge (from $82; 360/962-2271). ― Lawrence Cheek

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