Photograph America Newsletter Guide to the Hoh Rain Forest

A review

Guide to the Hoh RainforestYou all know about Bob Hitchman's Photograph America Newsletter? Well, you should. It's a good sized collection of location reports for all sorts of areas across the country as well as a good (and inexpensive) first step you can take when starting to research a location you want to photograph.
In these newsletters Bob shares not only photo location information, but also information on where to stay, eat, etc. In fact, he's been known to recommend specific campsite numbers in National Park campgrounds.
Because I'm always curious about how someone writes up an area I'm familiar with, I bought Bob's new guide to the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park.
As usual, Bob covers more than just what's titled. In this case he covers some of the beach areas as well as some other forest areas, trails, and roads; places you'd probably want to visit if you were going to spend a few days in the area.

And while he's good with general area advice, there are not a lot of specific details. For instance, the Hall of Mosses loop trail near the Hoh Rain Forest visitors center is, in my opinion, best tackled with a clockwise route. This gets you to the actual Hall of Mosses quicker. And the reason you want to get there quickly (and early in the day) is that it's a popular place and if you get there too late (say, after about 8 or 9 in the morning in the summer) you'll be spending most of your time waiting for people to wander out of your shots and you'll likely be battling contrast if it's not a cloudy day.

But he does include other interesting details like the name of that crystal clear spring-fed stream you need to cross on the way to the Hall of Mosses trail. (It's Taft Creek, something I did not know). And he mentions the other two trails: the Spruce Nature Trail and the Hoh River Trail. Both are accessed from the same trail that leads to the Hall of Mosses and both are worth exploring, especially if you've got the time to spend in the Hoh rain forest area and are not rushed. Hitchman also includes plenty of natural history.

Seastacks on Rialto Beach, from headland on north end.

Seastacks on Rialto Beach, from headland on north end.

I was surprised he didn't mention the Hole-in-the-Wall area at the north end of Rialto Beach, a place to find sea stars, bizarrely shaped rocks, a good sized sea stack and, for the slightly daring, a short roots and rocks trail over the headland that leads to great view (left).

I was, however, impressed that he included Enchanted Valley in this newsletter. Enchanted Valley, accessed by the South Fork Quinault River Trail, is one of my favorite places in the park. It's also been called Valley of 10,000 Waterfalls (a huge exaggeration) and Little Yosemite. It's a 13-mile hike into Olympic's back country and not a place you'd photograph during a day hike.

I do feel that if one is going to recommend a location like this that a few caveats should be mentioned. Like the need for backpacking gear as well as photo gear. To be fair, Hitchman does recommend that "You’ll need a bear-proof food container if you plan to stay overnight."

However, this glosses over what I consider some essential recommendations like the need for proper packpacking equipment, a first-aid kit, extra food, water and clothing, map skills, and of course, a backcountry permit.

There is one note in his newsletter about Rialto Beach that I'd like to comment on:

"There is not much sand–Rialto Beach is mostly covered with small round and flat gray stones (called “cobbles”) that turn black as soon as the surf rolls in or when it rains."


Colorful rocks on Rialto Beach

Colorful rocks on Rialto Beach

He's right about the sand, but the rocks? Actually, I've found that the rocks on Rialto Beach can be some of the most colorful you'll find anywhere on the coast. Every time I go I wander the beach collecting red, green, blue, yellow, white, and yes, gray, rocks. You don't have to go far either; these are all right at the end of the short trail leading from the parking lot.
I'll then arrange these rocks on the ground, pour water on them to really bring out the color, and photograph to my heart's content.

I was surprised that if Hitchman was going to include Enchanted Valley, a place most people toting heavy camera gear won't be visiting, that he doesn't mention Lake Crescent and the Sol Duc trail, both of which are much closer and easily accessible. To be fair, this newsletter is concentrating on the Hoh rain forest and the nearby roads and beaches and other forest areas.

All in all, this is a pretty good guide to the area and will point you to plenty of places to photograph, especially if you'll be in the area for a few days. It's well worth the $8 for the PDF download. Recommended.

Oh, and just as a reminder, I conduct photo workshops in Olympic National Park. But you knew that.

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