Life is hard and then, for most of us, it somehow gets harder. We keep fighting to keep our head above water, to stand tall in the face of adversity and to fight on. That is one of the reasons so many of us resonate with the Root Tree at Kalaloch Beach, otherwise known as the Tree of Life in Olympic National Park. Defying the odds, this tree is holding on by its roots, surviving against the power of erosion and the elements. Struggling and somehow living another day, we are inspired by its resilience, strength and beauty. As one of the unofficial representatives to the Washington Coast, the Kalaloch Root Tree is an introduction to the beaches of Olympic and a gateway to beautiful, rugged wilderness and the power of the Washington Coast. 

The wilderness coast of Olympic National Park stretches for 73 miles, with the short stretches of sandy shores interrupted only by sea stacks, bluffs and a million unbleached trees intertwined like a giant’s version of pick-up sticks. Each wave that breaks against the shore and every storm that brings heavy rain and winds reminds us that the Olympic Coast is slowly eroding, falling into the mighty Pacific Ocean at glacial speed. Sea stacks split and tumble, bluffs fall into the frothy breakers below and countless trees become victims to the onslaught of the elements, yet the root tree at Kalaloch keeps holding on.

The Olympic Coast is rugged and wild, but fills us with an energy and a soothed soul unlike anywhere else in the world. Despite the violence of storms and the never ending eroding power of the waves of the Pacific, we are drawn to the coast and to the beach of Olympic for strength. We see the power of destruction by nature and the futility of our actions in the long run, yet find beauty in the unique and beautiful. We become optimistic in spite of the surroundings, celebrating a tree that we know is literally on its last legs. (Are roots the legs of a tree? If not, I meant figuratively.)

Someday, this tree will fall and the iconic wood-capped cave will fade from memory for the millions who travel to Olympic each year. Until then, we flock to the beach, catching another glimpse of this gravity defying timber and getting inspired. the beauty of the roots, reaching for any thing to maintain balance and composure speaks to us, helping us know that the struggle for survival and happiness is something every living creature fights for. While naive, I like to think that the tree is fighting for its life to enjoy a few more sunsets along the Washington Coast, hoping for the perfect moment of clarity and understand of life’s purpose before succumbing to gravity.

The Olympic Coast is a tough place to live, yet countless generations have called the region home for millennia. Today, despite advancements is waterproof gear, rainy days along the coast are only for the hearty. As residents go about their day in the deluge of a downpour and gusty winds, day hikers grumble under their breath about the inclement weather along the coast. While locals go to school, fish and walk the beach, the National Park Service closes access to coastal regions during storms. The wilderness coast of Olympic is still a hard place to make a life, yet we continue to be drawn to the region for the rugged beauty and stunning scenery. We go to the coast to feel reenergized with each visit. Rain or shine, winter or summer, the Olympic Coast continues to inspire wanderlust, awe and determination to live the life we feel we deserve. Like the Kalaloch Root Tree, we fight on each day of stress, hoping for one more year of life changing sunsets on the most gorgeous stretch of coast in America.

Ruby Beach Sunset, Olympic National Park
Ruby Beach Sunset, Olympic National Park

To get here: Head to the Kalaloch Campground in Olympic National Park, parking at the largest parking lot. Walk down the stairs to the beach and turn right. The tree is a few hundred feet to the north.