Press: Cover Photo - Climbing in the Carmanah

An image of mine from the research climb that took place in the Carmanah Valley's Stoltmann Grove earlier this summer has made the cover of UBC's Forestry Magazine! You can read the full story about the project on pages 16-17 here:

You can also hear Master's student Vincent Hanlon speaking with Bob McDonald on CBC's Quirks and Quarks about his research into genetic mutations in some of the country's tallest trees:

Carmanah Valley Research Climb 2016

Over the July 16-17 weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to join a team of professional tree climbers and a UBC research student in the Carmanah Valley and photograph their endeavors.

The aim of the tree climbing project was to assist UBC Forest and Conservation Sciences Student, Vincent Hanlon in his somatic mutation research of Sitka spruce tre DNA. The climbing team, consisting of Jamz Luce, Matthew Beatty, and Ryan Murphy, used low-impact rope techniques to access and sample the highest possible new growth points in each tree, record specific sample location data, and to measure both the sample height and ultimate tree height. Over the course of 7 days they ascended 23 trees that averaged heights of 75 meters or 250ft, with the tallest (and largest by volume) measuring in at 84 meters tall. Their skills among the tree tops and dedication to helping further conservation and research efforts is something to behold. Trees were also accurately measure for submission to the BC Big Tree Registry.

The feeling of beginning on the forest floor, slowly ascending up the towering trunk of a centuries-old tree, before reaching the upper canopy at over 250ft in the air with panoramic views of a fully intact valley is an experience that truly defies words. It's humbling and beautiful beyond imagination. I can only hope that the photos captured here do it some justice. 

Thank you again to Vincent Hanlon, Jon Degner and Sally Aitkin at UBC Forestry for this rare and extraordinary opportunity and to the climbers for once again making access to this rarely-seen world possible.

Exploration: Cheewhat Lake & Carmanah Valley 2016

Over the May 14/15 weekend, three friends and I packed the van and made the dusty four-hour drive out to the Cheewhat Lake/Carmanah Valley region to pay visit to many of the country's largest trees. Around Cheewhat Lake grows Canada's largest tree, the Cheewhat Giant, along with the 3rd, 4th, and probably more of the largest western redcedars known. Thankfully, these are protected within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. I had never visited the giant cedar at the north end of Cheewhat Lake before. It was bit of mission to get there as well as the road along Doobah Lake was quite grown in and the trailhead was nearly invisible but in the end we found it and boy was it worth it!! Such an immense tree!! The GPS coordinates for Canada's 3rd largest redcedar at the north end of Cheewhat Lake are: 48.70070, -124.75124 The trailhead is: 48.70175, -124.75104. The trail begins in second-growth before entering incredible old-growth that includes some unique culturally modified trees and ends at the lake. Near the Cheewhat Giant (GPS: 48.69395, -124.74459) we also found the remains of a half finished canoe in the forest. This forest, and the many giants it harbours, must be my favourite place on Vancouver Island.

The trip also included a visit to the breathtaking Sitka spruce groves found in the Carmanah Valley. Such a timeless place. Not far from the parking lot we also spotted an new giant cedar that was almost 40ft around! Sometimes the big trees are hiding in plain sight just waiting for people to find them. Felt great to get some bushwhacking in as well and rekindle the drive to start looking for new record size trees that may still reside in the dense rainforest landscapes of Vancouver Island! Now that the BC Big Tree Registry is online, it's also easier than ever to nominate new discoveries. See:

I'm forever grateful for the legacy left by the late Randy Stoltmann and amazed by the many big tree discoveries he made. Tragically, he passed away in an avalanche in the early 90's at age 31 - the same age as me. I can't help but wonder what it would it would be like if he were alive today. What questions one might ask him. What new discoveries he might have made in the last 20 years. He left behind such beautiful tales of explorations and is and true inspiration to all lovers of wilderness. We can still visit and enjoy the Carmanah Valley today in large part because of him, and for that and more I extend my greatest thanks.