Take a breath. The sound of traffic falls away somewhere behind us on the trail. That metal train noise is gone. It's just the rush of water now or wind—they are the same.
In the curl of new moss is a pair of Calypso orchids, one in fresh bloom and one fading to brown, its succulent petals deflated and wrinkled on the edges. The Calypso only grows at northern latitudes, undisturbed, concealed on the forest floor. Fairy slipper and Venus's slipper are its other names. Its lolling tongue is covered with purple leopard spots, a scoop into its baleen mouth, halo of pink.
False Solomon's Seal has feather-duster flowers with a rotting sweetness that makes me sneeze at the top of the rise. I hold my rain jacket and hands up to avoid the brush of shiny poison oak. It's not really oak, he says. It's something related to poison ivy.
A switchback trail takes us into the heart of the narrow canyon. White foam of the creek threads along the bottom, rocks and fallen trees bending the water this way and that. On the other side, clumps of sword ferns splay out from their own bull's-eye center. Moss covers everything—you can never get lost in the PacNW because moss always grows on the outside of the trees.
But it's the water we've come to see: Elowah Falls. From the top edge of the cliff, it lays down a gray mist over the falling water that takes us in, wets us head to foot, releases us into a wash of drops that almost makes a rainbow.
The bridge is slick. So are the logs over the creek, green with fine moss. There's water on my skin and clothes and in my eyes.
Touch the earth. I am a rock in the sun. He hollers to me from where he has climbed down to the streambed, but even his voice is the sound of water.