A Day in an Ancient Forest

Earlier this month, I set out to cross something off this year’s bucket list: to meet some more of Canada’s famous trees. Last summer, we took a day trip up to the Central North coast of Vancouver Island to meet up with a few newly-minted islanders. Together, we ventured out from Nanaimo towards Port Alberni to visit the famed MacMillan Provincial Park: home to a grove of 800 year old trees, some as big as 9 meters in diameter. I knew Vancouver Island’s trees were old and big, but I hadn’t seen the proof for myself yet.

So this year, I was determined to spend more time appreciating these forests; after all, Van Isle is home to some of Canada’s biggest, tallest, and most significant trees. One that peaked my interest in particular was just an hour west of us in Port Renfrew. The Tall Trees Capital of Canada is the setting for Avatar Grove, where lies hundreds of ancient and awesome trees, and at the end of the trail to the upper grove, you will find Canada’s Gnarliest Tree.

The massive western red cedar measures a whopping 11 meters in circumference, or 4 meters in diameter (that’s 37 or 12 feet for all of you in the US). The numbers don’t do this guy justice, this tree is truly a giant.

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Conor stands in front of the giant burl of Canada’s Gnarliest Tree, January 21st, 2018.

But this knotty number isn’t the only tree worth noting in Renfrew, oh no – the small west coast town is also home to the Red Creek Fir, Lonely Doug, the San Juan Sitka Spruce, and the floating Fairy Lake Tree, all of which I hope to meet some day soon. For now, I’ll be reminiscing on the day Conor and I spent nervously navigating through the land of no cell service, with only my driving instructions to guide our way deeper and deeper down Port Renfrew’s logging roads.

It was all made well worth our while when we crossed the last bridge and found a place to park, happy to find a trail on either side of the old gravel (if you can even call it that) road leading our way into adventure. That bridge we had just crossed towers high above a beautiful boisterous creek, which we managed to get a couple decent pictures of.

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Our spirits were not dampened by the almost-immediate onslaught of hail, and we were pretty well prepared for the rain that came after. If you’re not a fan of wet adventures, I wouldn’t recommend trips to Port Renfrew. We don’t call this the Wet Coast for nothing!

Check out the montage of the trip and see for yourself why this place is known for it’s tall trees and cold seas.

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