Hike the Olympic Peninsula off-season

Sunset  – September 13, 2004

Most people, inexplicably, choose not to hike the OlympicPeninsula rain forests in the rain. In July, when precipitationaverages a miserly 2.72 inches, 4,000 people bustle through theOlympic 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 wetand gloom. And it’s a revelation. Every surface ― every leaf,twig, and scrap of bark ― glistens and strains to reflect thestruggling light, so the entire forest seems polished. And whatappears at first to be numbing monochromaticism, a tyranny ofchlorophyll, turns out to be a richly endowed spectrum of greens:the deep emerald of licorice fern, the wan olive of hanging clubmoss, the turquoise of Sitka spruce needles.

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

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

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

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