From Temperate Rainforests to Wild Coast

Olympic National Park

From Temperate Rainforests to Wild Coast

Hello, everyone! My name is Liza Hafner, and this summer I have the joy of working in the Kalaloch region of Olympic National Park as a science communication assistant. Kalaloch is part of a long stretch of protected wild Pacific coast edging up against lush temperate rainforest. 

I am originally from Colorado, where locals often brag about our 300 sunny days per year (and tolerate our measly 16 inches of average annual precipitation). Kalaloch is nearly the opposite! Especially now before the warmer summer season, cloud cover and rain showers are more common than sunny days. While that may seem dreary, Pacific fogs and the average 103 inches of annual precipitation keep the temperate rainforests vibrant green and teeming with life big and small.

I’ll be leading tide pool walks, evening campground programs, and trailside pop-up programs to help educate visitors about this beautiful place. Spending every day teaching and learning alongside my team and the visitors who stop by the ranger station and beaches of Kalaloch hardly feels like work!


Bright orange jelly spot fungus wiggles and jiggles atop a fallen twig (Hoh Rainforest @ Olympic National Park)
All aboard! The yellow-spotted millipede is also called the fairy bus millipede for the bright “windows” along its sides. It also smells like cherries due to its ability to produce cyanide—predators beware!
A pacific banana slug slimes its way across feathery stairstep moss (Kalaloch Forest Trail)
Mossy bigleaf maple leaves filter soft, cloudy light. . (Maple Glade trail, Lake Quinault North Shore)
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I arrived mid-May, and since then much of my work time has been spent learning the natural and human history of this place, engaging with the diverse scenery this coastal region offers, and training in audience-centered interpretive techniques. During training and off days, I’ve gotten to explore Kalaloch and the rest of the Olympic Peninsula, both inside and outside the park.


During training, one of our presenters opened with a memorable line: “There’s nothing pacifist about the Pacific Ocean.” Especially next to the calm green of the rainforest, it’s almost impossible to imagine life surviving where gray waves smash against dark coastal rocks and toss full trees up the shoreline as drift logs. 

However, life thrives here, too, in all sorts of bizarre and beautiful forms. 

Waves roil against the coast at Cape Flattery, just outside Olympic National Park
Two ochre sea stars rest among hundreds of aggregating anemones at Kalaloch Beach 4
Green and aggregating anemones alongside gooseneck barnacles and mussels (Kalaloch Beach 4)
Kalaloch Beach’s “Tree of Life,” a gnarled Sitka spruce with roots exposed due to coastal erosion; massive drift logs lay below
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The people of Kalaloch are also wonderful and varied, including my supervisor Todd Hisaichi, my housemates in the Kalaloch ranger dorm, and the interpretive staff across the park. I am so grateful to be living and learning with them this season. I am so grateful to be finding my place, as Mary Oliver says, in this family of things.  


Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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