We were tired. We almost decided to stay at camp and rest in the lingering long last hour of daylight, but instead decided to take a short walk, leaving our bags, our cameras, anything that needed to be carried behind.
The goal was to find the visitor centre, but on finding it closed we decided to carry on onto one of the short walks here. And that is where I found the glistening gemstones and precious metals of Hoh Rainforest. I walked without a camera, and felt as if I was truly seeing something for the first time, right down to its naked glimmering truth, beyond any measure of how to capture it as a digital file to share with someone or some people many thousands of kilometres away.
The forest sparkled for us. Even the presence and chatter of other people couldn’t break its enchantment. It was alive with light and mystery and colour. Enticing and pulling us in. Across the path stood a tree that had grown up and over and down in a perfect arch. And as I stepped as if to move through it past a family that had paused, they stopped us and said up there, there is a bull elk. We paused too and cast our gaze pointedly and deliberately into the trees. He was there. He was so quiet, and so of the forest we might not have seen him had he not moved, but once our search image captured his shape and colour and texture, he was all we could see. Immense, strong, confident. He watched us, an elaborate rack of antlers atop his head.
At length he started to graze on the head-height plants growing around him, but always there was an eye pointed our way. The family moved back to avoid disturbing him, but we moved on as the trail gave a wide arch to the left and around behind him. He seemed to be moving away from the trail, and we crept politely, respectfully on. We spotted him again, as our short loop made its way back near to where we had first seen him, and we stared for a time more at his immense and impressive stature, eventually leaving him to dine alone.
That was our first evening in Hoh Rainforest… and I was filled to overflow with its beauty, eager to stay and immerse myself in the colour and magic of its flora. We did the next day, hiking as long as daylight would permit us, weaving alongside and away from the crystal diamond blue of Hoh River, making french toast with honey and banana after 5 miles, playing among the giant fallen maple leaves as big as my torso, listening to the high-pitched chortled bray of the female elk moving through the undergrowth. It was somewhere so precious I wondered if it were real at all, or somewhere created by the fairy folk to enchant and entice us into their world… I may never know.