The Bogachiel Rainforest : one of the best forest hikes of my life
I fell in love with the rainy forestlands of the Olympic National Peninsula the first time I set eyes on her. That was years ago when I was married and we explored the area a little bit. I finally made it back post-divorce and have since visited this lush and vast ocean of green three times in the last two years. My most recent visit was this past July.
There are several rain forests in the Olympic National Forest up in the northern most tip of Washington state. The Hoh Rainforest is the most well-known as well as the most visited. I have attempted to explore the Hoh twice only to leave as the swell of crowds made it feel like a Disneyland adventure rather than an intimate time of forest soaking.
A local had told me about the lesser known but just as beautiful Bogachiel Rain Forest. It's trailhead has a no-fee public access. It does not have a visitor center nor paved parking, yet it is easy to access. My minivan (Van-Gogh!) managed the gravel pot-holed road just fine.
I had the sense to pack a rain coat and my hiking boots for this trail as well as a print-out of the trail map. The last time I was here was more than a year ago. I had rolled up with little knowledge with my hiking companion that day, the man I was dating at the time who was a good adventure partner. We were spontaneous and unfamiliar with the Bogachiel so we meandered around with scant knowledge about where the trail led. It was sunny and dry that day.
But this day was different. Not only was I solo, I also had a map and a clear idea of which way to go, and it was forecast to be rainy. I was thrilled. I love the forest the best when she is wet. There is a scent that is released when the skies open up and the northwest rainwaters shower down. The smell of forest rain is intoxicating.
I began the trail giddy and humming to myself. I am a hummer. I will spontaneously hum when I am in a relaxed and content state. I sometimes wake myself up in the middle of the night humming. I sometimes hum when I am painting or when I am cooking. And on this day on the Bogachiel Trail I found myself humming as my hiking boots took me step by step into the green.
The rain fell soft and misty at first, like a thousand kisses from water fairies. I did not even turn down my hood.
This trail is simple and mostly flat. It traverses several streams which at some of the crossings there were logs that had to be negotiated. There was no danger of injury, as the log crossings were less than two feet above water, but it is always a feat of nerves for me to cross a log. I get a rush every single time when I succeed as if I had just managed to cross over hot lava. The little girl in me remembers the world of make-believe of my youth and the pretend dangers and monsters and of walking across strewn blankets across the living room floor that were make-believe logs over giant fire-fueled canyons.
Walking a log is full of nostalgia.
The rains did not stop for a single moment. They began to fall heavier as the day wore on. Despite my rain coat and waterproof hiking books, I was soaked from head to toe by the end of it, a glorious warm baptism of rainforest blessings.
When I came to a stream, before I crossed it, I bent down and did a water blessing which is my habit. I anoint my forehead, my eyes and ears and mouth and throat... and other hidden parts of my body... as a means of connecting to nature as well as nurturing the deep gratitude I feel within. The forest is medicine for me and I cannot ever thank her too much.
This easy hike ought to take an hour at most. Because I stopped so often to gaze and at times cry in sheer wonder at the beauty I was surrounded by, it took me three hours. Three unforgettable hours.
I imagine myself returning to the Bogachiel again and again, with a future beloved as well as my daughter, my son, my grandson... with my friend Sisilla who has a deep connection to the area...
It is 172 miles north from my home, a nearly four and half hour drive. Not bad. I have high hopes of sneaking out there again before the cold winter rains set in this year.
It was one of the most enchanting hikes of my entire life. The solitude, the rain, the time to savor every step and gaze at as many trees as I wanted to for as long as I wanted. I was in an utter state of exhilaration by the time I got back to Van-Gogh.
Soaked through and with a more than four hour drive ahead of me back home, I made a quick pit stop at a nearby campground. I carefully pulled off my boots which were full of water. I poured them out with a smile as big as the gray sky above me.
John Muir said, "Into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul."
The Bogachiel is a soul-finding place. On this day I not only leaned deeper into being in the forest, I leaned deeper into the dreams within that are yet realized. I am a visionary of a woman, a creative dream maker who is not yet done setting the world aflame with my version of magic.
This rainy day in the rain forest was a cleansing of the doubts that would hold me back from honoring that which pulses inside my imagination.
I am not yet done creating the flourishing life I am intended to Live in order to help others Do the Same.