Monday, 13 September 2010

Big Trees? Rain? Yup, I'm On the West Coast

Good evening loyal followers.

As expected I'm putting the wraps on a pretty eventful day.  I had an early start this morning, which hit me a bit hard, but it was worth it for the chance to have breakfast out with my family.

The day started out pretty rainy, and showed a great resolve in seeing that initial weather pattern through to the bitter end, since it didn't let up all day.  We, however, we're equally strong in our resolve not to let the weather have too great an impact on our plans for the day.  Shortly after breakfast we hit the highway and made our way North towards MacMillan Provincial Park, which is near Port Alberni.  Contained within the confines of the park is Cathedral Grove - a forest of huge Douglas Fir trees.

As noted in the sign shown above, some of these trees have seen the passing of quite a few years.  This is one of the sights that I recalled from my youth, and I was excited to come see the grove from a new perspective with these older, wiser eyes.  Okay, I'll admit, even I'm a little dubious about that "wiser" bit.

There was one striking change from my memories of the place, and it was the amount of sky visible overhead.  I remembered the huge trees shielding the ground almost completely, but there seemed to be a lot of rain falling on my head today.  (Three cheers for my Tilley Hat.)  This cause of this excess rain was quickly illuminated by the first sign we came to, which explained that a massive wind storm in 1997, combined with an already damp ground, caused huge numbers of the trees to come crashing to the earth.  They placed this sign in an area that punctuated their point quite nicely.

You can actually see the new trees and ferns sprouting along the fallen log.  The downed tree has opened up a patch of sky to provide sunlight, and it's decomposing trunk provides welcome nutrients.  It's incredible the impact that these trees have had on the forest floor so long after their impact on the forest floor.

Sometimes when the trees come down their tenacious roots bring up a healthy sample of the ground, as you can see here.  Also, please note the rain gear of my family as evidence of the fantastic weather.

The massive remains of fallen trees were everywhere as we walked the paths, and we even found one that seems to have come perilously close to the largest tree in the forest.

As a young man I counted the paces it took me to circumnavigate the giant you see in the background, but for obvious (foreground) reasons I was unable to recreate this voyage today.

I suppose that in a forest of giant trees there are certain risks to be contended with.  Generally if one falls across the path they just take out the chainsaws and remove the obstructing chunk, giving you an interesting look at the cross section of the fallen giant.  However, sometimes it takes more than a chainsaw to solve the problems caused by a fallen tree...

Needless to say, that section of the path was closed.  I was actually leaning on the fence that barred our way so that I could get that picture.  Still, there were plenty of other paths to follow, so this didn't hamper our enjoyment of the forest at all.  I really wish I could convey with mere pictures the sheer, awe-inspiring size of these trees.  I'm afraid that you'll just have to take my word for it though.

There are other forms of vegetation sharing the space with these massive trees, and the Devil's Club makes up for it's short stature by providing a truly menacing countenance.

I don't know if you can see it well enough in the picture, but not only is the branch completely covered in some rather vicious spines, but the leaves are coated in them top and bottom.  And the award for Most Badass Shrubbery goes to...

After our walk through Cathedral Grove we headed to nearby Coombs for some lunch.  An interesting feature of this town is the roof of the market where we dined:

Yes, that's grass on the roof, and for those of you with sharper eyes, yes, that's a goat in the little house on the roof.  I couldn't get a very good look at him since he had the sense to stay in doors in this weather.

After we returned home I went for another short walk with Grandma and Aunt Jeanette, which we followed up with dinner.  We've been passing away the time since then looking at vacation photos from my previous trips which I haven't had the chance to full share with my West Coast family.  We've got a lot of hiking to do this week, but there's also a whole lot of catching up to be done.

Well, that's all for now.  Since it was an early morning I think I'll compliment that with an early evening.  The forecast calls for improved weather for the remainder of the week, so hopefully I'll be able to provide some sunnier pictures tomorrow.


corey.blosser said...

Very cool - nice pics of Cathedral Grove - if you drive by it again (or are in a similar type forest), I have a camera-hack that produces really green photos in low-light forests: Try forcing the flash on, and taking the same shot - on my camera it produces really green images. If you are close to the subject, you might get white spots on wet leaves, etc - in those cases I block the flash with my thumb and still get more accurate colour. Just an idea..

Have fun.. the updates have been good..

Jabbles said...

Not seeing those trees when I was out west a couple years ago is a regret I hope to remedy on my next trip out west.

Colin Young said...

That's interesting Corey, because I actually find with my camera that if the flash goes off automatically in those low light settings I get a really dark picture. It's almost as if the camera is expecting more light because the flash is going off, but since everything is out of range of the flash I just get darkness. I'll have to toy around with it a bit.

Debbie said...

Some beautiful pictures reminds me of here.