While one brings binoculars to the high country, a magnifying glass is more suited for the forest. While not laid out before you like the subalpine meadows, the flowers of the forest zone provide surprising variety and beauty. Little umbrellas can be found on the splendid little Woodnymphs, also rightly called "single delight". Several species of yellow violets grace many of the more moist areas but acute observation is required for their flowers are smaller than a nickel. Smaller yet, but uniquely splendid, are the tiny spidery flowers of the mitreworts. The forest is also the home of the Park's elegant orchids including the incredible Fairy Slipper, Calypso bulbosa. Also orchids are the three species of coralroot which are parasitic saprophytes living off decaying matter on the forest floor. Other saprophytes include pine-saps and pinedrops. And then there are the wintergreens, tiger lilies and columbines, the regal queen's cups and elegant trilliums . . . and the list goes on and on. As one is more exposed to the diversity found here the appreciation of the forest zone grows substantially and even hikes without a view of "The Mountain" are treasured.

Carbon River Rain Forest

The diversity of Rainier's forests is further accentuated by the surprising rain forest of the Carbon River Valley. This is one of the few known temperate rain forests so far inland from an ocean coast. Dominated by evergreen conifers including stika spruce which is normally only found in coastal areas. Moss covers virtually everything that isn't underwater in this swampy environment. Moss and lichen are epiphytes, "air plants", which rely on host tress for support, but not nutrients. They get their nourishment from air, falling rain and the compost that lies on the tree branches. A half mile nature loop trail at the Carbon River park entrance provides a great opportunity to examine the forest up close and excellent information panels make this a great self-guided tour.


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