The Forgotten Forest, Part Two: Into the Mystic

Merely a few pages of the 2007 calendar were to turn before favourable spring weather had us thinking about a return to Kennedy Creek. It was the first day of April when Chris and I began our early day, hiking along the Cedar Mills Trail in Lynn Headwaters Park. The idea, this time, was simply to try and cover some ground we hadn’t on the first foray. Would we be April fools? Well, yes, but read on and find out how!

On reaching the Third Debris Chute, the first mission was fording Lynn Creek. A word to the wise and wary: you have to be comfortable with cold, fast moving water, especially when you do this in spring. Your trip can easily be over before it begins as frequently it’s simply too dangerous! Techniques will vary. Sometimes I will leave my boots on and walk straight across and sometimes I will carry my boots. I recommend using hiking poles or finding yourself a long sturdy branch to help with balance as well. Last but not least, put your cameras in a resealable plastic bag and pack extra clothing in case you end up going for an unplanned swim. A climbing helmet is also not a bad idea, not only for the creek crossing but also for all the inevitable clambering over rocks and logs you’ll be doing!

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Not sure if I was smiling here or just chattering from the cold!

Chris had reasoned that on this trek we ought to work our way up to about the 450m elevation mark before traversing north toward Wickenden Creek. This made sense as then we would cover exploring the belt of forest just beneath the one we had walked the first time. No sooner were our boots back on after the ford of Lynn Creek,  we were then faced with the unexpected fast moving waters of lower Kennedy Creek, but we managed to steeplechase that with minimal difficulty.

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Lower Kennedy Creek

Once past that obstacle, it was a matter of bashing our way uphill for about half an hour. On our first trip we had followed a crude flagged route that heads west toward Kennedy Falls after you cross Lynn Creek but on this day we wandered well north of that line. Morning mist drifted through the trees as the sound of rushing torrents faded. Silence descended, and almost magically, we were once again among the giant Western red cedars

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Morning in the forest
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Chris with his first find of the day, a cedar over 12 feet (3.66m) in diameter

Normally we think of ourselves as tree hunters, but on this excursion, as with the previous one, it seemed the trees were more or less finding us! This was a stand of forest in which numerous trees had reached well over four centuries in age, and many were far more ancient.

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Another giant, well over 10 feet (3.05m) in diameter
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If a tree falls in the forest, you still have to climb over, under, or around it. This fallen cedar was quite a blockade!

The quietude was interrupted from time to time by the rhythmic sounds of a nearby woodpecker building a home, and punctuated by the occasionally inane Simpsons’ banter that seems to follow Chris and me around wherever we go. Onward we thrashed, in the direction of an unnamed creek not far south of the Wickenden drainage, beset with plenty of distractions along the way.

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The way a forest is supposed to look
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Find after find after find! Could this day get any better? It’s all a blur now.
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Every tree is unique in its own way

Half an hour passed, and we found ourselves in a steep creek gully that appeared peculiarly bright and open. On subsequent trips I would discover that avalanches are not infrequent there, as the gully is at the bottom of a chute that shows the evidence of very forceful slides. Momentarily, I gazed uphill, where I could see the spiky tops of more ancient cedars, then downhill, where I could see the rugged peaks of The Needles standing in defiance, across the Lynn Creek Valley. Where to go next?

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Spiked tops above usually means an old tree and usually a big one, where cedars are concerned
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Ironically, only months later we would end up beneath this rock face below the Middle Needle

In proof of that old maxim “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” suddenly Chris bolted up the chute, saying “I think we have something here!” He could not have been more right! It was a huge western red cedar,  likely eight centuries old yet relatively young in appearance, judging by its trunk wear. Because of where it was growing it was difficult to say exactly what its width was was but it was in the neighbourhood of 15 feet (4.57m) in diameter, perhaps greater. In all future if it survives to the age of the oldest trees in the park, it might well be among the largest someday! Here then are a few looks at this grand old specimen!

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Just figuring out where to measure it took a lot of time!
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A look up into its massive crown
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One of my happiest moments. We named this tree the Kennewick Giant. Photo by Chris H.
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Here is Chris getting a closer look
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Yet another look at this wall of wood

Well, that tree had certainly made our day memorable, but as it turned out the walk home delivered just as much wonder! We were now at an elevation of roughly 350m, and so we opted to follow that lower line and double back toward Kennedy Creek again.

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Trees rooted atop a rock face
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Massive tree fallen on the hillside
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Mylar balloons…I have found countless samples commemorating almost every occasion and birthday. Someday I’ll write a story about them all!
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Cedars  in early afternoon light
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Magic

Not to sound trite, but this was one of those days that has you really appreciating the wonders of nature. I advocate responsible forest management but I find it hard to understand that some people could only see this forest solely in terms of dollar signs. In this day and age there is really no excuse for harvesting old growth forest. Thankfully, Lynn Headwaters Regional Park has seen its last logger.

Midday gave way to afternoon, and we decided to stop for lunch near a tree both of us nearly walked past. Life was good.

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Me, on the move. Photo by Chris
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Afternoon light on another ancient cedar
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Twisted Column
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Mighty and flared, and over 400 years old
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Chris taking note of our discoveries
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Our lunch time companion. A 13 foot (3.96m) wide tree I called the Keyhole Cedar

Half an hour later we were making our way across lower Kennedy Creek yet again. The waters were flowing even harder than they had been in the morning, which is typical of creeks during the spring snowmelt.

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We had just crossed the creek when I spied something odd lying on the ground. I picked it up and showed it to Chris, who suddenly exclaimed “What? No way?!”  It turned out he’d lost his lens cap on a previous excursion to the area and had been doing without it for some time. And they say it’s hard to find a needle in a haystack? Not for me!

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A short time later we recrossed Lynn Creek,  even as we planned our next adventure. Several hikers were having lunch on the other side and from their bemused looks they were no doubt wondering where in the world we had come from. It had been another successful day!

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Stay tuned for the next chapter, because the story is far from done!

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