Big Tree Enthusiasts Be Careful - It's Wild Out There

20 meter high Gordon River bridge over 5 meter deep water near Port Renfrew
Photo: Victoria Times Colonist
Although Victoria and south Vancouver Island have many urban tree treats, my favourite places to go are in the wilderness that occupies the rest of the land. The coastal temperate rain forest is renowned the world over for its wilderness. It can be dangerous out there as three men found out last week.

The men were driving near Port Renfrew approaching the 20 meter high bridge over the Gordon River. This is a beautiful spot where the river runs through a narrow, steep sided canyon. The greenish-blue water is deep and cold. The narrow bridge hanging over the canyon has low timbers acting more as curbs than guardrails, and I am always happy when my vehicle makes it to the other side. The three campers were not so lucky.

Car in 5 meters of cold water
Photo: Victoria Times Colonist
While it was cold and snowy at the time of the incident, the back country here is dangerous at the best of times. The men's car slipped on the ice as they approached the bridge heading north east toward Avatar grove and Duncan. It broke through the timber curb back end first and plunged to the water below.

Luckily the men escaped with minor injuries, but then had to scale the steep sides of the canyon to get back to the road. After a few hours of scrambling in the dark they made it to the top. Once there they had a 4km walk to the nearest help. There was no cell phone reception.

It is wild out here. Rough logging roads, narrow bridges over steep walled canyons, heavy rains, giant logging trucks, and general industrial activity make this a place to be aware of danger at all times. Trees and forests can be dangerous, especially during high winds. Large branches and whole trees can become hazards during a big tree outing.

Tips For Safe Back Country Big Tree Exploration
  • always yield to logging trucks and other industrial vehicles, park well to the side of the road, listen for oncoming trucks before proceeding
  • leave no trace of your visit - pack out what you pack in
  • check with the proper authorities for weather conditions, road closures, and times that travel is allowed
  • let someone back at home know where you are going, and when you will return
  • take an emergency kit with food, water, and cold/wet weather gear, tire pump, patch kit
  • wear sturdy footwear, hike slow, watch for wildlife, and natural hazards
  • check your gas, and spare tire, travel in a well-maintained vehicle
Vancouver Island has one of the highest concentrations of black bears and cougars in the world. You could run into either one even on an urban big tree tour. A cougar was recently spotted in Esquimalt, and officials were warning all small children and small pets to be on the lookout.

Be Careful - it's wild out there.

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