12/18/2011

Big Coastal Christmas Trees

One of the big conifers in the distance is decorated with two bald eagles at the top
I went for a walk today to look for Christmas and it was nowhere to be seen. There was no snow or hanging icicles, and it was sunny and a balmy +9 degrees Celsius. However, we do have some of the largest Christmas trees in the world growing here, and I discovered some nice ones.

Conifers are the traditional Christmas trees of choice, and the Pacific coastal forest is dominated by conifers. Douglas-fir is the second most popular Christmas tree sold in North America. Young trees have a nice conical shape, and the needles are sweet smelling when crushed. But if you like your trees big, and alive, this is the place to see them. We are at the edge of coastal Douglas-fir territory in Sooke.

The biggest Douglas-fir in the world grows near here in the woods close to Port Renfrew. You would need a lot of tinsel for that behemoth, which is 73.8m (242') in height, 13.3m (43.7') in circumference, and 4.2m (14') in diameter. But I wasn't looking in Port Renfrew for big trees as I wanted to stick closer to home.

Big Sitka spruce overlooking beach
The place I went exploring for giant conifers was in the Wiffen Spit neighbourhood. There I found a right of way leading to a set of stairs down to the beach. It is a great place to see big trees on the top of the high banks, as well as those that have fallen below or washed in off the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

We celebrate trees and their importance this time of year when we hack one out of the forest and bring it into our homes to dry up and die. Then they are unceremoniously dumped at the curbside. Here in clear cut territory, it seems like an extravagant waste.

If you go without the traditional indoor dead tree this year, and you are in the Sooke region, Wiffin Spit is the place to go to see a live tree that is anonymously decorated every year.

The Wiffin Spit tree is a short hike from the parking lot, and is now the most notable live decorated tree in town since town council grinches gave the green light about a year ago to remove two beautiful, completely healthy heritage Douglas-fir trees right in the center of town. Read about their sad demise here.

Biggest Christmas tree on Vancouver Island until being
unceremoniously cut down by The Grinch
The 150 year old Douglas-fir trees were replaced by two 2m tall exotic Norway spruce. I noticed the other day that one was decorated, but it just doesn't measure up to the giant it replaced.

Happy holidays.

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