While visiting Seattle in early April, I had an intuitive TreeGirl hit that there must be some Big trees nearby. I tuned into my TreeGirl radar, and with the help of the internet, I found them. Over the ferry and through the woods to the beautiful wet, west coast of British Columbia I went. Although it was not my genetic grandmother's house I was visiting, one could call these ancient trees are our grandmothers, and indeed they are for the First nations peoples who have depended upon them for thousands of years.
Western British Columbia is known both for its remaining ancient rainforests, as well as its clearcutting of them. The Port Renfrew area in the southwest corner of Vancouver Island is home of some of the world's champion tree species: Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Yellow Cedar and Western Redcedar.
One tree, the Red Creek Fir is the world's largest Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), measuring 43.7 ft (14) in circumference with a height of 242 ft.! Estimated at between 700-1000 years old, it is the only tree in the world besides coast redwoods and giant sequoias to be 7 feet thick 144 ft off the ground!
Another tree, an ancient Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata) known as The Avatar Tree, "Canada's gnarliest tree" has massive burl 12ft in diameter. Another gnarly tree worth seeing is in a nearby grove. (below)
Thanks to the dynamic non-profit forest conservation organization, Ancient Forest Alliance, based in Victoria, B.C., and their mouth watering website photos by T.J. Watts, I was led to some of these magnificent trees. I contacted Ken Wu, AFA's dedicated Executive Director to see if they would take me to some of these trees that are on 4 wheel drive logging roads, and an tree lover alliance was made. On the ride to and from the trees I was informed of the politics around logging on Vancouver Island. Already 90% of the ancient forests of southern Vancouver Island have been logged. AFA is working hard to protect the endangered old-growth forests of BC as well as to ensure sustainable forestry jobs in the entire province of British Columbia. Read more about the Ancient Forest Alliance and support their work: www.ancientforestalliance.org.
Indeed everywhere you drive in the island, and many in B.C., you will experience the scarring clearcuts of the Island's magnificent forests. To witness these devastated places in person is like a trip to Hell itself. The coast of British Columbia, like that of northern California, Oregon and Washington state is one continuous coastal bioregion rich in remnant old growth trees. Ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, and around the world, are vital for endangered species & biodiversity survival, carbon sequestration, sustaining First Nations cultures, and a growing tourism industry.
Tragically, people are not connecting our everyday modern consumptive lifestyle with the true cost we are paying for our wood and paper products: habitat destruction and fragmentation, soil erosion, hydrologic disruption, water siltation, wildfire hazards, and extermination of thousands of forest and riparian plant, animal and fungi species. Clear-cutted forests are notorious for not being able to recover to their original structure and composition. This all equals what I call the "uglification" and death of life. We must change our modern value system and our forestry practices worldwide to be more regeneratively focused on the integrity of ecological systems.
Thankfully, there are a few magnificent trees left. Canada's largest Spruce (Picea sitchensis) is the San Juan Sitka Spruce (and also the second largest Spruce in the world). It was with this tree that I did a photo shoot in the rain with AFA around the 38 ft (11.6 m) circumference, gazing up at the 205 ft (62.5 m) top. This was my first making love with a tree in the rain, and it was magnificent!
Serendipitously, both the AFA and TreeGirl was interviewed by the Vancouver Island newspaper, the Times–Colonist that day. Read it here: http://www.timescolonist.com/the-naked-tree-hugger-makes-her-way-to-port-renfrew-1.105165
Alas, a scarcity of time combined with the abundance rain of the Pacific Northwest coast kept us away from taking the 4 wheel drive excursion and hike to find the monumental Red Creek Fir. I am anxious for my next visit, perhaps when it is a little warmer!
Note: If you plan on taking the journey to the Sooke – Port Renfrew area, also well known for it's tide pool biodiversity, whale watching, fishing, kayaking and coastal hiking, I highly recommend staying at the beautiful The Soule Creek Lodge in Port Renfrew. www.soulecreeklodge.com (photo by T.J. Watts).
These towns have been working successfully at changing the economies of their region from logging to sustainable tourism, and the Soule Creek Lodge and AFA's education and activism about these giant trees is helping. You can support the trees by supporting their tourism industry.
TreeGirl is an author, photographer, arborist, naturalist, forest ecotherapist and conservation educator bridging humans with wild nature.