Covered Wagon Journal 5
Last Entry From the Summer 1955 Journal of Travels Through the Western National Parks
By Philip Hyde
(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)
September 7. Olympic National Park is a true rainforest, a cool jungle, covered with a great green canopy that all but excludes the sunlight, causing the forest floor to be bathed in a soft, pervasive green glow. The forest floor is more open than you might expect. Occasionally, there are moderately long vistas down the forest aisles which give you an opportunity to gain a better perspective on the immense size of the mature spruce, hemlock, and Douglas Fir trees. At the end of the dirt road that leads east from Highway 101 to the campground on the Hoh River, a short nature trail loops around a choice sample of the forest. At one point the trail enters the Hall of Mosses. Great maples are hung with dense clumps of moss, and long streamers of moss hang down from the vines that are spun from trunk to trunk. Here and there a rotting remnant of a tree appears but dimly, its every form-defining edge softened with a cushion of moss. Often these fallen giants are covered with legions of seedling trees—new forest life, rooted and nurtured in the old.
September 9. We are working south, tracing in reverse the westward course of the rivers fed by the great accumulation of ice and snow on the heights of Olympus. Each of these river valleys is densely forested with the climax type of rain forest that once covered the coastal slopes from Alaska to California, and is today represented in its virgin state almost exclusively in Olympic National Park. Coming up the roads leading into the park from the highway, there is no question when you reach the park boundary. The great green curtain falls at the line, and you pass from a scene that often looks more like a battlefield than a forest, into the peace and serenity of a forest floor unmarked by the often aimless and destructive characteristic of logging operations. A picture of that line of demarcation along the western borders of Olympic National Park will always come to me when I hear loggers talk of just wanting to “take out a few of the overripe trees that will die soon anyway,” or speak of “sanitation cuts,” or “down timber salvage.”
September 10. The green cathedral of the rain forest on the East Fork of the Quinault bestows a kind of benediction on our summer’s travels. We have walked down the trail in silence, knowing that our summer wanderings are drawing to a close. But our silence is one of gratitude. After a summer in the parks, we are more aware of our great riches. The remembered beauties of those places of wonder flood over us, as our imagination takes us back to a scene described in the museum in Yellowstone. The time is 1860. A group of men are camped in the meadows by the junction of the Gibbon River and Firehole River, sitting around one of their last campfires, discussing the future of this area so full of natural wonders that they have been exploring. They have decided, at length, that it should become a preserve, set aside for the people. This was the beginning of the movement that culminated in the establishment of Yellowstone as our first national park.
Traveling through our western landscape, while being grateful for our parks and preserves, we cannot help noticing the contrast between them and the lands in between, which, increasingly, become the battlegrounds of “progress.” How fortunate we are that for all those who came to dig, chop, plow, and burn, some came who saw, and valued, and then worked to preserve. May there be enough of these, in this generation, to enable us to pass on this priceless heritage to those after us.