Up the Elwha!

Before I dash off into writing about our gentle autumn weather here, let me pause and say that I am thinking good thoughts for friends and former co-workers affected by Sandy.

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The other day we returned to one of our favorite areas to hike: the Elwha River watershed. We caught a brief respite from our two weeks of drizzle and managed to hike for five hours through a rain forest without getting wet! Although we never saw the sun, it was a glorious day.

There are two main trails in this area, both of which eventually cross a bridge and head far up into the mountains. On this trip, we took the trail that we did not take on our most recent hike up the Elwha.

The aptly-named big-leaf maples showered the trail with foot-wide, golden leaves.

Besides the maples, the trees in this forest are mostly conifers… Douglas fir, Western red cedar, hemlocks, and others. The understory is lush with ferns, salal, and in some places an inches-thick layer of moss. The ferns are beginning to fade, mostly turning brown but in a few places ghostly white.

One deciduous tree stood out with its graceful slim leaves that glowed pinkish orange. I’m not sure but I think this may be a Pacific dogwood.

Up close, the forest revealed another set of delights. Here is a patch of lung liverwort (sort of a giant moss) clinging to a boulder.

I had to look closely to spot this interesting specimen. I believe it is a variety of coral fungus.

Despite all of the fabulous photo ops we did manage to actually hike to somewhere. Our turnaround point was Lillian Camp, almost five miles up the trail, on the Lillian River just above its confluence with the Elwha. I want to camp here someday — imagine going to sleep under the trees with the sound of the river close by!

The trail crosses a bridge over the Lillian River here, and you know what that means — bridge inspection! The bridge itself is humble, but I love the diagonals in this view — they pull me in and make me want to hike further… maybe on a long summer day next year?

The view of the river from the bridge is nothing short of idyllic.

I was taken by the leaves on that boulder in the foreground, and the water rushing around the boulder. It’s tough to photograph moving water in low light without a tripod, but I did my best to balance myself against a bridge post. Not so bad for hand-held?

We lingered at Lillian Camp for half an hour, but as the sky began to darken we knew we needed to start back if we hoped to beat the rain and sundown. That didn’t stop me from taking a few more photos of those glorious autumn leaves… they’ll all come down overnight as soon as we get the big windstorm that always seems to come this time of year. But until then, this is a place to be enjoyed and savored. I’m privileged and proud to live here.

After a perfect autumn hike, we celebrated with a homebrew. Our “Angeles Porter” exceeded our expectations and we’ll be brewing this recipe again. Its creamy-sweet maltiness is, I confess, easy to drink and tough to resist. Yum!!!

The next batch of homebrew after the porter is an English style Extra Special Bitter (ESB) — think Bass Ale. “Bass” makes me think of “fish,” and of salmon swimming upstream — up the newly-freed Elwha past the old dams now coming down. I’ve named this beer “Up the Elwha ESB.” We’re bottling this weekend, so in a couple of weeks I hope to report to you that it’s as rich and heady as a hike up the Elwha on a crisp autumn day. Cheers!

4 responses to “Up the Elwha!

  1. What beauty! I would love to hike this area and the photos are really lovely. I am particularly fascinated with the coral fungus! I’ve never seen anything like it before and it almost looks alien! :-)

  2. Debra, there are MANY strange things growing in the forest. I liked this little guy for its unique color and shape — it was cute! Some of the fungi are not so cute… I’ve seen some that look like blobs of jelly. It’s a weird world we live in. :-)

  3. Pingback: Running to the Elwha « Slow Happy Living

  4. Pingback: Chasing rarities | Slow Happy Living

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