I know a mineral soak might ease some of my physical discomfort, but the idea of not doing any walking is not sitting well with me.
 
So I find a map, find the trailhead, and try my luck as a solo hiker on Lovers Lane.
 
Without anxiety about being too slow and last in line, I'm feeling better. The first quarter mile parallels the parking lot, lodge, and pools. Not a very rustic or woodsy feeling--pretty much the opposite of what I've been appreciating about the rain forest.  
 
Trail leaving LodgeGradually, I leave civilization behind. As I meander, I think, 'I'll go 10 minutes and turn around.'   'I'll go another 10 minutes and turn around.'  And so I keep on going.
 
The trail demands that I keep my eyes on the ground, planning the next place to set my foot.  But it's beautiful.  I'm back in the forest primeval, appreciating the wonder of these giant trees, the sun and shadows through the branches. I'm strolling (it would be an exaggeration to say 'hiking') parallel to the river, taking in the sound of the running waters and the smell of the forest; relaxed enough admire the vast variety of life around me-- mosses, ferns, nurse logs, skittering animals, flitting insects, birds.... 
Trail Near Sol Duc Lodge 
I cross a single-log bridge -- I've seen these on almost every hike on this trip. Fallen trees are suspended over an area of water or maybe where there is a sharp but narrow drop in the trail.  The logs are scored to make footing less slippery, and an angled railing on one side gives hikers something to grip.  Bearing in mind that there are trees here over a hundred feet tall, a fallen log can create a long bridge. Around the time I get to the middle of the 'bridge', it does a little trembling sort of thing to remind me how long it is, but it's  sturdy and I'm steady.
Sol Duc log bridge
I've been walking for about an hour when I see two of my group, people who took the easier shorter hike, coming toward me around the next bend in the trail. I've been poking along slowly, they've been going their usual pace, and we meet as they're approaching the end of their hike. 
Sol Duc RiverWe stop for lunch alongside the river  (thank you, Linda, for making that sandwich this morning).  Then the three of us head back toward the lodge and pools.  It isn't until we're leaving the trail and going toward the lodge that the hikers who took the longer route reach the point where we had lunch.  The length of time it took them to get there highlights what I avoided when I chose not to go with either group.  I'm glad I didn't just sit in a mineral pool, but I'm also glad I chose challenges I could manage. 
          
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