Hoh Rainforest | Olympic National Park

Of all the places we visited in Washington, I feel most compelled to let Hoh speak for itself.

It was the site of the most otherworldly hike I’ve ever been on. First, we traipsed through the Hall of Mosses, where thick green tapestries hung from solid branches and trees grew, strikingly, straight out of the trunks of their fallen brethren. We took a longer trek, too, on the Hoh River Trail; there, the crowds thinned out and the elevation rose as we walked deeper into the forest. We stopped twice to watch a family of elk graze in a clearing below the path.

Our campsite boasted a stunning view of the Hoh River and the surrounding hills, but we left to have dinner at Sully’s in Forks during the hottest park of the day; the ensuing hamburger and Oreo-dusted ice-cream cone felt really well-deserved after eight miles on the trail. Weaving back into the park at dusk, we came upon more elk: this time, though, it was an entire herd of them that filled a grassy field on the side of the road, letting us gape at them for a full five minutes before bounding into the treeline. It was, for lack of a better term, magical.

The next day, we’d drive back into Seattle by way of Lake Crescent, seeing my brother one last time and gathering up our things before heading home to Chicago. I won’t lie: it felt really, really good to get home after speed-dating an amazing part of the United States, to grab takeout Thai from a familiar restaurant on the way back from O’Hare, and to be greeted at the door by one very happy cat. It brought me a simple yet bone-deep sense of pleasure to rediscover all the little apartment projects we’d successfully toiled over (I’m looking at you, Ikea shower shelf), and to settle so easily back into my trusty seat on the back porch. It’s endlessly reassuring to have deep roots in one place: when you take a lot of care in building a home, it will always comfort and restore you, no matter how much time you’ve spent away from it.

But I can’t deny how much Olympic National Park stoked that fire of wanderlust in me, either. Just a week after we returned, we were already hatching another plan to sleep under the summer sky. Sometimes, my friends, you can have it both ways.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400