VIBT Big Tree Olympian Awards

"Giants like this will not be seen again
for five or ten centuries, perhaps never."
Randy Stoltman, Big Trees (1987)

photo: http://www.cathedralgrove.eu/text/01-Cathedral-Grove-3.htm

Never mind Olympic hockey, I'm rooting for the ancient forest Big Tree Olympians - the heroes of big tree preservation. The Pacific coast forest has some of the biggest trees around, and thankfully, it has individuals that have worked for years, usually without pay or recognition, to protect this vanishing
10 000 year old forest ecosystem.

I thought it fitting during the 2010 Winter Olympics that VIBT hands out a few medals of its own in recognition of those who have gone Citius, Altius, Fortius in their passion and dedication to the big trees and the things that live among them.

Often these defenders of the voiceless and powerless do their work at great personal sacrifice, up against well-funded corporate lawyers, an endless drive toward growth and profit, and intransigent government officials.

Tourism BC's recently revamped website states that "much of Vancouver Island is protected parkland", and that it contains "many pockets" of old growth forest.

What it does not tell you is that the grandeur of these disappearing islands of isolated ancient trees is surrounded by industrial clear cuts and 2nd or 3rd growth tree plantations. 75% of Vancouver Islands original forest has been logged.
Cheewhat Cedar, Pacific Rim National Park

Since saving the big trees is a cooperative effort, rather than a competitive one, the Big Tree Hunter Olympian Awards are non-hierarchical dendro-medals. There are no losers here - everyone wins.

Randy Stoltman Grove, Carmanah/Walbran Provincial Park
Photo: http://www.cathedralgrove.eu/text/05-Pictures-Politics-3.htm

In no particular order, VIBT salutes the following enthusiasts who have worked tirelessly in the defense of big trees and ancient forests. Their dedication will allow future generations to see that at one time giants inhabited the Pacific coastal forest:

The Cedar Medal: Maywell Wickheim, Sooke: discovered the Cheewhat Cedar, Canada's largest tree. Has guided many hikes while educating others about the beauty and importance of big trees and wild places.

The Douglas fir Medal: Paul George, Gibsons: co-founder of Western Canada Wilderness Committee, an organization that has been educating the public and lobbying to ban the logging and exporting of ancient B.C. forests since 1980. They have an admirable list of successful campaigns including Clayoquot Sound, the largest area of ancient temperate rain forest left on Vancouver Island.

The Sitka spruce Medal: Randy Stoltman, deceased: big tree enthusiast and campaigner for WCWC. Discovered the tallest Sitka spruce trees in the world in the Carmanah watershed, and fought for protection of the area. Carmanah/Walbran Provincila Park, including the Randy Stoltman Grove, is a stunning cathedral of mist and green.

VIBT 'boughs' before the generous efforts of these Olympians.

The very pockets of old growth Tourism BC is touting on it's website would be gone if not for people like the award recipients.

Hanging Garden Tree, Meares Island, Clayoquot Sound
Photo: http://www.gotofino.com/tofinohikingtrailsbigtreemeares.html

Western Canada Wilderness Committee reports that 13% of Vancouver Islands's total land base is protected, but this includes only 6 % of its productive forests.

The remaining 94% of forests, including what is left of the old growth, is for industry, I guess. Unless we do something about it. Even Olympians need support.

Ask questions and avoid purchasing old growth wood products. Write your political representatives demanding an end to old growth destruction. Donate to forest preservation groups. Wipe with only 100% post-consumer toilet paper. Use alternatives, like rags, to disposable paper products. And see the big trees to see what we are in danger of losing.

Do you know someone who is working to save big trees and ancient forests? Please leave a comment here, or contact me via my profile to nominate for next year's 2nd Annual VIBT Big Tree Olympian Awards.


San Juan Beach Video - Feb. 05/10

While I was on the beach at the Pacheedaht campground looking at big drift wood I took a short video. It is not sharp, but you can see the beauty of the area, and listen to the slap of the waves on the sand. You can also see why the Pacheedaht people are known as the "People of the Sea Foam".

The video starts by looking off toward the town of Port Renfrew, a place that was first established as a logging camp in the early 20th century. As I turn to look up the beach you can see the Red alder fringe bordering the sand with the hemlock/spruce forest rising up behind. Strewn over the beach are the winter's accumulation of drift logs.

The video continues panning to look along the beach toward Harris Cove where the Gordon and San Juan rivers come together before emptying into San Juan Bay. As the camera passes the mouth of Gordon Bay it continues past the trailhead for the West Coast Trail, originally built in 1907 as a life-saving trail for shipwrecked sailors. The video shows where the trail goes up along the coast, and
then continues 77km to Bamfield.

This video was taken at low tide on a calm day. Imagine high tide during a storm in the winter. People who live on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island know the sounds of giant drift logs being smashed over rocky outcrops.

The first commercial logging took place in the San Juan Valley in 1889, and rampant exploitation has continued to this very day. Vast expanses of Western hemlock/Sitka spruce forest have been liquidated and turned into wood products for the world, leaving behind an industrial wasteland. Some notable big trees and small patches of original forest have survived the onslaught and are worth visiting.

I will be visiting some of these places and posting photos and information in the future.


Winter Drift Logs Park On Port Renfrew Beach

I love a good drive even more now since I am doing it less, keeping most of my adventures local and self-propelled. A drive well worth making is the 107km (66mi
) trip from Victoria to Port Renfrew. There is enough to keep the tree enthusiast occupied for a day trip, weekend, or lifetime.

The twisty, dangerous, and fun-packed West Coast Road takes you past some of the most beautiful coastline anywhere, and through some impressive second and third growth tree plantations. Small remnant patches of old growth and nice beaches, can be accessed from the highway all along this rugged route. One of my favourite forest/beach areas is at the Pacheedaht campground in Port Renfrew. Bordering San Juan Beach, San Juan River, and Harris Cove, it is also one of the most accessible.

When we pulled up to the beach we were surprised at the changes since our last visit. Winter storms had tossed debris over the entire 2 km stretch of beach, creating a labyrinth of wood sure to swallow the unaware beachcomber.

From end to end the beach is strewn with wood, from large trees with complete root systems, to tiny wood chips ground and polished by the pulsing waves. For 2 km these large trees stretch, all pulled tips-in to the beach at the same angle, looking like cars parked at a drive-in.

A few huge logs, escaped from the log booms of days gone by, lay partially buried further up the beach, thrown by tempests of the past. These columns are being reclaimed by the relentless sands of time.

The Sitka spruce forest behind the beach is a green, misty, mythical place. In the Coastal Western hemlock zone, and right next to the ocean, this rugged spot is all about water. Sitka spruce, the third tallest conifer species (after coastal Redwood and Douglas fir), is tolerant of the constant salt spray in their ocean environment.

On this beach, more exposed to the open Pacific than those further up the Juan de Fuca Strait, the thundering surf can get big. Big enough to throw huge trees and logs around like toys.

The hemlock climatic zone is the wettest zone, on average, in British Columbia. This wonderland of wetness receives major moisture, about 1000 to 4400 mm of rain annually. That explains the dripping fluorescent green mosses hanging from everything creating a magical Tolkienesque landscape. You expect the ancient trees to move, or talk, or scream and shout.

Compare this to the beginning of the drive from Victoria. It sits in Vancouver Island's Coastal Douglas fir zone, in the rain shadow of Washington's Olympic Range. This zone stretches from just past Sooke, around the bottom of the island, and up to Campbell River. 

Because of the influence of the Olympic Range, the Coastal Douglas-fir zone is much dryer with about 647mm of moisture every year. Compare that to Port Renfrew, only 80 km from Sooke. Here a year will bring around 3671mm of precipitation. This is giant Sitka spruce country, and the second largest Sitka, the San Juan Spruce, is only a few kilometers away at the San Juan campground.

Another reason I like the Port Renfrew area is that it marks access to the West Coast and Juan de Fuca Trails. Both pass through areas of old forest and provide glimpses of trees and forests largely pillaged elsewhere on the island. Indeed, hikers are often treated to the chainsaw sounds of similar forests disappearing outside the narrow park boundaries.

Big trees gro
wing next to the ocean or on rivers naturally erode out and fall into water. Wind storms can take out thousands of trees in a single weather event, as in December 2006. It looks like many of those trees end up on San Juan beach. This wild west coast phenomenon shows the enormity and power of this special place. It is the rugged west coast and I love it. Big surf, big trees, big drift logs, big rain.

Well worth taking a leisurely big tree adventure in this awesome location.