I stood nervously on a rock, adjusting my camera settings while trying to remain balanced. The roar of the river drowned out my thoughts and I was almost unable to think. Before me, a churning, nasty, powerful river raced downstream, tossing logs and moving boulders with the greatest of ease. A few months earlier, this had been a lazy river, barely trickling past boulders and full of swimmers and waders. Now covered by feet of muddy waters, North Fork of the Skokomish raged, full of anger, excitement and energy. The first major rain event of the fall had arrived and the North Fork of Skokomish in Olympic National Park was rejoicing.
I was celebrating, as well. Summer’s endless sunny skies burnt me out. It sounds terrible, but I was getting tired of taking pictures with no clouds and endless blue horizons. I was tired of climbing mountains and not finding snow, scanning the horizon and seeing an absence of distant white peaks. I was getting tired of dried out ponds and low flowing rivers. I missed the rain. I missed the clouds. I missed what makes this place home. As October rolled toward the end of sunsets after 5pm, a storm promised to wake me up. It promised to fill the lakes, flood the rivers and bring life back to the Pacific Northwest.
The storm wasn’t huge. It wasn’t life-changing. For most, it won’t even be memorable. For me, it became another layer to who I am. This storm allowed me to witness the cleaning of rivers, flushing away an entire seasons worth of downfall and debris. The October Storm gave me the chance to stand in the forest as the last gasps of summer finally succumbed to the onslaught of wind and rain. because of the storm, I was able to see a river I love return to glory, filling up and flowing stronger than she had in over half a year.
Along Hood Canal, the city of Hoodsport was getting dumped on. In the mountains and higher elevations, even more rain was falling. Up on Mount Ellinor and Mount Washington, snow was falling for the first time since April, and along the coast, strong winds were blasting the bluffs. Finally, a fall storm was hitting the region, and I had to get out in it. I had watched the forecast all week, monitoring water levels and rainfall predictions, hoping to hit a hike along a river during its peak flow. The river I choose was a no-brainer. Hiking along the Staircase Loop Trail of Olympic National Park was the closest, the easiest to get to and the river that I knew best. Ninety minutes from Olympia, I put of my rain gear, changed my shoes and hit the trail, ready to take see the deluge for myself.
The North Fork of the Skokomish never disappoints. Rain or shine, this place is beautiful and in October, it was stupidly gorgeous. All along the Staircase Loop Trail, the forest was rejoicing in the rain. Dripping from the towering trees above, large drops of rain pounded the ferns and fallen logs, sounding like applause from mother nature. The river roared and yelled, finally awake for the winter. Tossing large logs downstream, tumbling giant boulders rolled underneath the gray waters. Around every corner, another amazing scene unfolded causing me to stand still, dumbfounded by beauty. In Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle, people were complaining that the weather was bad…but they were wrong. I was outside, in the elements and having my best day in recent memory.
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