November 2008: Quinault Rain Forest

Olympic National Forest, Washington

All year long cool ocean currents brew Pacific storms that are powered onto the Washington coast on the prevailing westerly winds. Reaching shore, the storm clouds quickly slam into the Olympic Mountains and go no further. And so the state’s northwestern coast is drenched in an average of 140 inches of rain every year, blanketing th eregion in some of America’s largest and greenest trees. Visitors flock to Olympic National Park’s Hoh Rain Forest to marvel at one of the best examples of the country’s rare temperate rain forest ecosystem. Dogs aren’t welcome here but you can still hike through a verdant rain forest with your favorite trail companion. Surrounding the national park is the generally dog-friendly Olympic National Forest, including the Quinault Rain Forest south of the Hoh Rain Forest. 

On South Shore Road below Quinault Lake your dog can trot along the lush Rain Forest Nature Trail. At one magical turn in the trail you stand below all four titans of the rain forest - Western red cedar, Sitka spruce, Douglas Fir and Western hemlock - growing in a row. Other routes in the Quinault National Recreation Trail System lead to a cedar bog, waterfalls and along the lakeshore. Lake Quinault bills itself as the “Valley of the Rain Forest Giants” and several short spurs reveal several charter members, including the Worlds’ Largest Spruce Tree. This monster soars 191 feet high with a circumference only a few whiskers shy of 59 feet around. On the North Shore a half-mile trail takes you to a gnarled big cedar that is believed to be over 1,000 years old. You can easily stand inside the ancient wonder with your dog.
BONUS Giant trees can often be seen growing in orderly rows. This is the result of their propagating on the mossy safety of large fallen trees on the forest floor. As the fallen trees decay, a process that can take decades, they become homes for many living creatures, including carpenter ants, folding-door spiders, centipedes, salamanders, and shrews. Mushrooms and other fungi grow on the rotting trees, and eventually the rotten trees turn into nurse logs, as young trees grow on top of them. When the nurse logs decay completely their thriving wards are left with a distintive hollow root pattern.
The Quinault Rain Forest is at the southwest corner of the Highway 101 loop that encircles the Olympic Peninsula, north of Aberdeen.