Earlier this week I toured the Port Renfrew region with CHEK News for a video about how old-growth forest tourism at the Avatar Grove, Big Lonely Doug, and other nearby ancient stands has transformed the local economy. Dan Hager, the Chamber of Commerce president, speaks up for a Tall Tree tourism economy, while Ken Wu and myself speak about the importance of saving the remaining old-growth forests. The news clip also features some of my drone footage from the Walbran Valley!
The dense, old-growth rainforests of Vancouver Island harbour unimaginable secrets. But even if you spent every moment of your life exploring them, you'd never unearth them all. That ceaseless mystery of what might lie around the next corner, over the next ridge, or up the next river, consumes my thoughts night and day. So with some time to spare this past Sunday, myself and a friend made the 3.5 hour journey out to visit the Walbran Valley. Arriving late in the day, we took off quickly down river to see a new grove of big trees and an immense log jam that were recently found by others just within the park boundaries. The log jam - which almost defies comprehension - is found in what you'd normally expect to be a small forest creek. This 'creek' however shows clear evidence that it turns into a raging torrent of flood water during intense winter rains. From there, we rock-hopped our way further upstream, and what we stumbled upon here was like nothing I have seen before. As the creek narrowed, the walls rose into a solid limestone canyon, sculpted into fascinating shapes by years of erosion and polished white by the flow of water and logs. Waterfalls gently cascaded into crystal clear pools while logs perched on ledges 20 feet high in the air stood as a subtle reminder of the hidden power of the creek. Visiting this remote area during a giant storm would be an experience to behold. But as the light began to fade we were forced to return home before venturing much further up the valley, leaving the mystery of what lies beyond to the imagination until the next opportunity to explore arises.
Yesterday we took a Shaw TV reporter out to do a story on the big trees and ancient forests of the Port Renfrew area (Avatar Grove, Walbran Valley, and others) and their importance in supporting the local economy, including an interview with Dan Hager, the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce president representing 73 businesses! Here are a few pics :)
On a recent trip to the endangered Central Walbran Valley on southern Vancouver Island, my colleague Ken Wu and I worked to obtain accurate measurements a colossal western redcedar tree known as the Tolkien Giant (GPS: 48.64569, -124.601246). After some scrambling through the thick underbrush, we managed to wrap it with the long tape. Preliminary measurements put the ancient tree at 14.4 metres (47 feet) in circumference or 4.6 meters (15 feet) in diameter, and about 42 meters (138 feet) in height. This makes it the 9th widest western redcedar in BC, according to the BC Big Tree Registry: http://bit.ly/1Iuf9Tv It's often hard to grasp the sheer size of these giants, and even harder that many are still at risk of being cut down. The Tolkien Giant currently stands in a tenuous forest reserve known as an Old-Growth Management Area and is thankfully protected for now however, just a couple hundred meters away lies 1 of 8 cutblocks proposed by logging company Teal-Jones. Here we came across the foreboding orange flagging tape marked "Falling Boundary", as well as more giant trees. We nicknamed one incredible specimen the Karst Giant due to the band of limestone that is prevalent in this area. The Karst Giant has been tentatively measured at 12.1 meters (40 feet) in circumference or 3.9 meters (13 feet) in diameter. Although it doesn't make the top 10, it's still an exceptional tree (photo below).
At almost 500 hectares in size, the Central Walbran Valley is home to one of the largest tracts of contiguous old-growth forest found outside of parks on southern Vancouver Island, a region which has lost 96% of its valley bottom old-growth due to logging. It's an ecological and recreational jewel that must be protected by the BC government from the current logging proposals.
The dense and highly productive ancient forests found here also provide some of the most incredible bushwhacking and exploration opportunities. One truly feels like they've stepped back in time to a prehistoric-like wilderness visited by few to none on Earth. You never quite know what unique tree, karst feature, or creature might by lurking around the next corner.
See some news coverage from our Walbran trip here: