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Putting Nature in a Box



We have been on the Olympic Peninsula for just over a month now. Starting on the east side of Olympic National Park and moving north, west and now south we have explored the fringes of this vast wilderness park. We have also explored the towns and villages surrounding the park. There are so many things we have seen and done that I won't even begin to write about all of them in one entry. I'm starting with nature because that is the focus of the national park.

We have walked many miles of trails over the hills and through the forests of Olympic National Park. I always have my camera with me and I take pictures as if they were free because they actually are since the dawn of digital cameras. After you purchase the camera it costs you no more to take 10,000 pictures than it does to take one. So we return from an outing and I download two or three hundred pictures.

We were walking a trail in the Hoh Rain Forest on the western slopes of the Olympic Mountains. Here rain falls in annual amounts in excess of 100 inches. Summer is the dry season so the trails were dusty and no water dripped from the leaves of the trees. By the end of September, this will end and rain will start to fall. Higher in the mountains it will be snow and there are active glaciers on the peaks of the Olympic Mountains. The Hoh River has a bluish color associated with the color of rock flour, formed as glaciers grind rock into a fine powder. This is released as the glacier melts during the summer.

As I walked the trail and snapped picture after picture something dawned on me. I am constantly frustrated because my camera isn't large enough. The trees are up to 300 feet tall. It fascinates me to look up at these monsters towering far above my head. But it isn't just one tree, it is a whole forest of trees. I can turn left, right all the way around and I am surrounded by incredible scenery. With my little camera I get a bit here, a bit there. I can digitally stitch pictures together to get panoramic pictures. But there is no way that I can convey the splendor of what I am actually seeing. It is impossible to put nature in a box.

I've seen the redwoods of Northern California and the sequoias of Sequoia National Park. The Douglas fir trees, Hemlocks, Sitka spruce, red alder and maple trees of the Olympic Peninsula are no less amazing. The forest here on the western slopes is known as the asbestos forest because it seldom burns. There is enough rain and moisture that the forest is very difficult to set on fire. Most of the trees in the national park are destroyed by wind. Hurricane Ridge in the park gets its name from the ferocious winds that blow here during winter storms. Winds in excess of 100 miles per hour bring down trees, laying them out across the forest floor. Root balls 20 feet tall are raised as a huge tree rips its roots from the ground. The forest floor is littered with monster logs piled up across other logs.

With the wet conditions, every inch of the forest floor grows something. When a log falls to the forest floor, it becomes fair game. Mosses grow and cover the downed tree. Other trees sprout on top of the log. Such logs are known as nurse logs because they feed the life growing on them. Over time the roots of young trees grow down around the log into the ground. Over time the nurse log eventually rots away and leaves a void beneath the young tree. The roots that once framed the nurse log before it rotted away now are well above ground with a void beneath. The tree towers above these roots as if the tree is standing on its tip toes.

So I have pictures of the roots of such trees. I have pictures of mosses draped from limbs of trees, covering logs, growing on the ground. I have pictures of streams, waterfalls, rapids. They can be 4 x 6 snapshots, 8 x 10 pictures, 20 x 30 posters or wall size murals Whatever they are, they are flat, two dimensional representations of nature, Putting nature in a box, no matter how pretty it looks, just doesn't convey anything close to the real experience. So enjoy the pictures but you really have to come see this for yourself.


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