I've always felt more at home in the forest than anywhere else, and the big trees of the Northwest are the consummate forests. We were lucky enough to have four days to spend out in them, at the Elkhorn campground.

There is great beauty at every scale here, from the microscopic to the thousand-year-old trees whose lowest branches jut out a hundred feet overhead, to the snowy volcanos on the horizon. Most of the pictures are at the smaller scales.

western trumpet honeysuckle

Hummingbirds were frequent visitors to our camp, and this is why. All along the riverbank, western trumpet honeysuckle were in bloom. The flowers are about the length of a hummingbird's beak, probably ensuring that the little bird's face feathers get a good dusting of pollen as it drinks.

western trumpet honeysuckle

Western trumpet honeysuckle: orange flowers cupped in the highest leaves.


Along the edges of the trails, the ground was all but covered in tiny flowers. Most of them were twinflowers. The flowers are a bit less than a centimeter long. I particularly like this picture, framed by its twin leaves.


The flowers grow in clusters, carpeting the edges of the trail. Its scientific name is Linnaea borealis, and is said to have been Linnaeus' favorite flower.

wild lily

The wild ancestor to our familiar garden tiger lilies resides here, and seems to have a propensity for growing where it is backlit.


This little flower is some kind of allheal, or self-heal. Its name derives from its many uses in herbal medicine, some of which have been tested. This is probably Prunella vulgaris, as some of the photos seem to show the fringed lower petal like these have.


I particularly liked the lighting, especially this shot, which captures some of the blue sky in the background.


This little flower is probably a kind of speedwell: a member of the genus Veronica. The genus name is from the apocrypha, in which a woman named Veronica wipes the sweat from Jesus' face on the way to the cross, and her cloth is imprinted with his face. Why this story is associated with this little flower, I can't say. Speedwell derives from its herbal uses.

big tree

With some success, I tried to catch the light coming through the curtains of moss and lichen hanging down from these trees.

big tree

Eric pointed out that there was a rare opportunity to get a sense of the scale of the place. Look in the shadow under the tree and note the picnic table. These are big, heavy tables made out of solid wood planks. The table is easily a meter across, and so is the tree.

our beach

Did I mention that our campsite came with its own beach? The sand here was a gray mixture of granite and basalt, and very soft. The water, though, is melt from the snow and glaciers in the Olympics and is icy cold. Eric and Sue went in for a dip - I did not.

pearly everlasting

A little cluster of pearly everlasting, captured at dusk.


A close look at the seeds of a tall grass growing on the trail side.

big grass

This is what the whole thing looks like.


The proliferation of waterfalls in the Cascades and Olympics tends to inure one to them after a while. Having been away from the Northwest, though, I have recovered from this condition. This unnamed and unacclaimed little waterfall lies just 5 minutes' walk or so downtrail from our camp.

prince's pine

These little pink Western Prince's Pine were growing along the dim paths under the trees. Unsurprisingly, given its location in the poorly-lit part of the forest, it is one of the species that draws much of its nutrition from fungi.

not the moon

When we were first hiking into camp at dusk, the moon was settled between the peaks of these hills, and glittering off of the river. I decided I would come back to this spot at sunset and try to get a picture of it. Unfortunately, the moon did not cooperate. The month must march by quickly in the hills, because the moon did not return to this spot the entire time we were camping there.


The river washout left some spectacular lookout spots. As long as you are careful. These trees will probably join their fellows in the river below at the next rainy season.


The sunny rockfaces in the rainforest are a nearly desert-like environment: hot, dry, and with very little soil to cling to. The crevices in such places support succulents, and often sudden clusters of flowers persistently reproducing in this hostile niche.

However, no one seems as interested in the succulents as in the flowers, so I can't tell you the species.

gold rock

A wider look at such an environment, covered with golden lichens.


Fireweed also grows in this hot, dry spots.

river below

We've hiked up a bit from our riverside campsite: the river is now just a line of blue below.


An odd bearded and horned fern, clinging to a sheltered spot on the hillside.


Just a bit further uptrail, we found our goal: a lovely little waterfall. It was just a few feet offtrail, and created a little stream that crossed the trail... but no one else seemed to notice it.


Never one to resist a challenge, I decided to see the waterfall from the top. Note Eric looking up from the rocks below: the tie die actually serves as pretty good camoflauge: he's about halfway up the photo close to the right edge.


Eric and Sue weren't far behind. I climbed down first, though, to get a photo of them at the top.

big tree

Eric posing by one of the big trees along the trail... but is this a Douglas fir or a hemlock? Turns out the hemlock was growing on the hill almost directly below this giant tree. The branches of the big tree start about 80 feet up.


A close look at the thick moss that carpets the rocks in the moist areas.


A sense of vertical.

ocean spray flower

This flower might be a Holodiscus discolor, or it might be something else.


While Sue and I were taking pictures, Eric meandered on down the trail. Obviously he got bored along the way - note the cairn in the lower left.

eric resting

When we got back to the river, Eric found a rock to rest on. It didn't look very comfortable to me, but he seemed happy with it.

eric resting with sue

Sue and I preferred the flatter part of the rock.

go set

The little beach by our campsite is also a breeding ground for go stones. If you don't know, Go is a game played by placing small black or white stones on a grid. This flat stone made a great go table, in a setting that would please any Zen master.

eric and sue playing go

Eric and Sue demonstrating its use.

future amber

Future amber: stalagtites of tree sap, capturing bits of the present.

I'm still not sure which plant this is. The flowers were growing in tapering clusters, like bunches of grapes.

The most interesting thing about them was the variety of insect life they supported. There were some clusters that were overrun with little black beetles, others which seemed to support colonies of tiny ants, and another which was jealously guarded by a spider, all on the same plant. Most of the critters were moving too fast for my camera, but these ants paused for a moment in their duties.

It occurs to me that our menu, during the four days' camping, is probably worth mentioning. The site was about a mile walk from the car, which was close enough to keep food in a big cooler in the car, and walk down to the car every day to get fresh groceries.

Needless to say, we didn't starve.

Back to index Want to use these photos? Click here for legal stuff and contact info.