National Geographic : 1955 Jul
95 Log-cabin Life Makes Chores for Everybody Except One Small Overseer For three months the author and his family called this one-room hut home. Each night rushing waters of the Elwha River (left) lulled them to sleep. Boots on the porch await the next rain-forest tramp. hemlock, with circumferences of 53 feet 4 inches and 27 feet 2 inches respectively. But, as we made our way along the trail, it was not the big trees that dominated the scene. What holds one, rather, is the pro fusion of less towering species-understories of big-leaf maples, vine maples, ferns, lichens, fungi, Oregon oxalis, and the smaller life of this prodigious tangle. Perhaps above all it is the club mosses hanging from nearly every branch, covering nearly every surface, in trailing strands and great sweeping tufts like the magnified beards of invisible elves and hobgoblins, that set the ominous and mysterious key of the rain forest. The feeling of entering upon a nether world is abetted by the almost palpable quiet of the deep forest (pages 92, 96, and 101). Clouds hung low the day of our first visit to the Hoh Valley. But around noon the sun came out briefly, and the somber shadows were replaced by a brilliant suffusion of yel low-green light. Like a pale mist it filtered down through the vegetation, shone through and bounced off, reflected by a billion chloro phylled surfaces. The world of gloom and shadows was bathed in a soft yet intense and all-pervading glow. Rain Forest in Climax State Because of its sodden, fire-resistant char acter, this great rain forest on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula has been standing relatively undisturbed for centuries. With much of the forest now in the so-called climax state (a climax forest is one that has devel oped to its maximum extent), growth still proceeds in great profusion, but the absolute mass of the forest is virtually unchanging. Creative and destructive processes have reached an equilibrium. When a giant tree crashes to earth, a hun dred young seedlings already growing on the forest floor, now stimulated by the strong light that suddenly pours down, leap up to fill the space so vacated.