Five Mile Island in the Hoh Rain Forest

Hoh River

I hiked the Hoh River Trail to the Five Mile Island campsite in the Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park. The hike was ten miles roundtrip, with minimal elevation gain. The trail ran alongside the Hoh River. At times, the river water had the light blue color of an alpine lake. The river’s water level was low. Loose gravel islands in the river were accessible by crossing fallen tree trunks.

cross the log to get to an island of gravel
cross the log to get to an island of gravel

When we got to Five Mile Island, we ate lunch and drank beer. I saw two small children playing on the riverbank. They were having fun pushing sand with their hands, not building anything in particular, just pushing the sand into the water. I felt a sense of yearning for childhood, back when simple amusements gave me so much joy, like I’ve lost something now. Sometimes I feel something akin to that childhood joy, when I am wholly caught up in some activity, with no distractions or reminders of real-world responsibilities. Those activities don’t make me smily and happy per se, just… content. Even if the activity is meaningless by output, it feels meaningful in the moment.

I kept my eye out for wildlife, but didn’t see any on the way to Five Mile Island. On the return trek, when I was nearly back at the trailhead, I finally got to see what I was hoping to see. There was a massive grazing elk, with antlers like branches spread wide.

a waterfall we passed on the way to Five Mile Island
a waterfall we passed on the way to Five Mile Island

There are so many great hikes that are closer to home, and with a greater variety in terrain. This hike alone is not worth the 4-hour drive to the Olympics. If not for spotting the elk at the end of the hike (right by the trailhead no less), I would have been sorely disappointed. And so, from what I’ve seen of the Olympic National Park, the mountains and Hurricane Ridge are a must-see. The beach is surreal. The Hoh Rain Forest as a day hike can be skipped, but I imagine it would be the ideal place to camp.

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