There are times that a wilderness excursion is but a simplistic jaunt, that is to say: you make a plan, you follow that plan, and everything goes as planned. Here then, is a trilogy, or an epic of sorts, describing that what can go swimmingly for some can somehow become an exercise in perseverance for others..
The principals? Myself, and good friend and fellow tree enthusiast Chris. Chris is that guy you know who has been pretty much everywhere you’ve been and a lengthy list of places you’ve never heard of. We’ve both spent a lot of time hunting for big trees in B.C., Washington, Oregon, and assorted other locations. The objective? Vancouver Island’s Red Creek Fir, the world’s largest Douglas fir, residing some thirteen kilometres from Port Renfrew on the reputedly heavily damaged Red Creek Main. We would not have to discover this leviathan, as its location has been very well known since 1976. All we had to do was find the time to get there! Ha, if only it had been that easy….
This story begins in February of 2007, with the two of us struggling to remain awake at the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, waiting at 5 am for the ferry. Chris was alreadywondering aloud that we might just be wasting our time. There had been an epic windstorm in December of 2006 -the one that levelled scores of trees in Vancouver’s Stanley Park – and those same gale force winds had hit the west coast of Vancouver Island at gusts of over 140 km/hr. Still, we were enthused, as the tree had lived for 1000 years and so we hoped it had survived.
Due to the recent snows we decided to take Highway 1 to Victoria and then drive Highway 14 to Port Renfrew. It was an idyllic winter day, as the skies had cleared and were now blue and inviting. Some 5 1/2 hours later, we were at the head of the Red Creek Main and began our journey down the old rail grade logging road, but not for long….. “Whoa, what’s that?” Chris exclaimed. In front of us was a number of full sized trees that had fallen across the road. While I’d brought a chainsaw and some fuel for just such an occasion, we’d have needed most of the day just to clear them out, and who knew what lay beyond? As time permitted, a 24 km hike was definitely out of the question!
Due to those constraints, we now had to opt for Plan B, to cross the San Juan River for Lens Creek and a hike to see Chester’s Grove, a beautiful stand of Sitka spruce. This was a hike that did not disappoint in the least! However, at the end of the day, the final score was Red Creek Fir, 1, Chris and Mick, 0.
After parking at the Lens Creek Bridge, it was a mere 15 minute stroll to the trees, with views of the river and a truly primordial grove that I was elated to see.
Chris had been there before, and this time we managed to measure several of the giants; the largest were over 13 feet in diameter and easily 500 years old. Enjoy our walk through the grove through these images…
With time passing quickly, it was time to hike back to the Jeep, and begin the long trek homeward on the highway, and finally the ferry, and then the highway again. What began in darkness at 430 am with an endless stream of Simpsons imitations ended in darkness at 930 pm with more of the same. Were we smart enough to shelf our pursuit of this elusive forest giant? Well, no, you must be thinking about two much smarter guys, because we’d be back for another try! Read on if you will, to the next chapter of this expurgated trilogy….
Nearly 12 years later, I returned to Chester’s Grove once again to visit this beautiful stand of Sitka Spruce and Bigleaf Maple. You can read that story here .