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Sol Duc Falls - February 2011

By Erin Meier

If you are on the Peninsula this winter, the trail to Sol Duc Falls is a great choice for a winter hike. On a mist-laden, rainy day this walk will take you through a quiet forest to Sol Duc Falls which boasts not one, but four falls. This appealing trail is certain to shake off your winter ennui. Everywhere we looked we seemed to see downed logs, rich reddish chunks of wood scattered around them. There are quite a few nurse logs on this hike, inhabited with such species such as Cornus canadensis and Blechnum spicant. Not all of these logs are as big as the gargantuan example at Olympic Sculpture Park, but they are still fascinating nonetheless.

In winter the defoliated understory makes you far more conscious of form with regard to shrubs, and also trees. Even more than usual, the forest seemed dominated by the massive trunks of Tsuga heterophylla and Pseudotsuga menziesii. Without the obstructing leaves of surrounding shrubs, the massive trunks of these giants fill your line of sight for as far as the eye can see. The only shrubs I really noticed were the Vaccinium membranceum. Their dark bare branches stood out starkly against the luxuriant array of golden-olive mosses smothering the uneven ground. A few immature Tsuga heterophylla poked out of the little hillocks of moss surrounding the trail, some growing on nurse logs near toadstools and other species of fungus.

This trail is bisected by several small streams, and at the second bridge we were arrested by the brilliantly white ribbon of rapids that tumbled downhill over lichen covered boulders. As we tramped along we identified the familiar Lobaria pulmonaria bedecked with rather large soredia. We also found the Lepraria species present on the bark of several trees. Linnaea borealis wove itself sweetly over stumps and through the large swaths of Neckera douglasii. The falls are just past the Canyon Creek Shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. At the other side of the bridge, near the observation decks, the rocks are worn smooth forming miniature pools. An Oplopanax horidus grew nearby, still thorny, though without many leaves. Since the trail to the falls is only 0.8 miles, we explored a bit. Ulota obtusiuscula grew on a tree near the falls in marvelous tufts of reddish-green. If you are up for more exploration, you can continue along the Lover's Lane trail which will take you to Sol Duc Campground.

Directions: Take Highway 101 about 27 miles past Port Angeles. Eventually, Sol Duc Hot Springs Road comes up on your left. Turn down this, and continue until the end of the road, about. 14 miles, where you will find the trailhead.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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