It sits in silence, even unobtrusively, in a clearing on Wickenden Creek’s north bank. That in itself is quite a feat, because this ancient Western Red Cedar measures in at 4.85 metres in diameter, which is just a shade under sixteen feet wide! The Wickenden Creek Giant is one of the most impressive cedars I’ve seen on British Columbia’s mainland, and the fact that it still stands today is a miracle in itself!
There was logging in close proximity to the tree early in the 1900s, but on the west side of Lynn Creek the crews of foreman Julius Fromme only reached the south bank of Kennedy Creek before their efforts ceased. Then, in the 1930s and 1940s, the Cedar Mill logging operation worked the eastern side of Lynn Creek, harvesting nearly every marketable cedar on that side right up to Hanes Creek and beyond. In the end, thankfully, the Wickenden Creek Giant was spared, and today lies in protected parkland, in what is now Lynn Headwaters Regional Park.
There is some conjecture as to why the Kennedy and Wickenden Creek Valleys were never logged in the early days, but there are a number of possible explanations. The fact that Kennedy Lake was designated as a reservoir may have had something to do with it. As well, the British Columbia Mountaineering Club had a summer camp from which they regularly climbed nearby Forks Peak, and that could have been somewhat influential. Whatever the reasons, it’s a blessing that today one can make their way to these creeks and enjoy ancient forests that remain relatively unscathed.
Getting into these areas requires a certain amount of dedication and experience, as there are no marked trails on the west side beyond Kennedy Falls. An approach from the east requires fording Lynn Creek, and as most are aware that can be challenging or even foolhardy to attempt. A word of caution, then, to those who make this venture: This is a wilderness objective, and you need to be prepared to overnight when you hike there. Conditions can even change throughout the course of the day, with spring freshet water flow frequently increases in the afternoon, and of course rains can also factor into the equation. Lynn Headwaters Regional Park has little interest in improving access or building trails, from what I’ve always understood. I’ve not heard an explanation for that, but without a doubt budget and liability would be relevant concerns. In other words, prepare appropriately, as you’ll need to be self sufficient!
Wickenden Creek, incidentally, was named for Charles Osborne Wickenden, who was a reeve for the District of North Vancouver at the turn of the twentieth century. He was also a noted architect, and designer of many early North Vancouver buildings including Christ Church Cathedral. (Source… The Glorious Mountains of Vancouver’s North Shore: David Crerar, Harry Crerar, Bill Maurer, 2018. Be sure to get yourself a copy!) I’ve no idea whether Mr Wickenden ever visited the valley named for him, but if not, he missed out on something highly unique!
However you manage to get there, whether by fording Lynn Creek or by bushwhacking your way over from Kennedy Creek, your goal is to reach a broad clearing less than 300 metres in elevation not far from the north bank of Wickenden Creek. The British Columbia Big Tree Registry lists a location, but not a waypoint, so those who manage to find this giant will do so with determination and the love of a good mystery. There are a number of cedars nearby that measure up to ten feet wide, to help guide your mission!
This champion stands about 55 metres in height, and is still in very robust condition, according to reports. Conservatively, it is not less than 600 years old, but to my knowledge its age has not been verified. The first time I saw the tree was back in 2007, when Doug and I explored Wickenden Creek. Chris had been there only two weeks before, and his only words were “Wait until you see the wall of wood in Wickenden Creek I just staggered into!” Really, that was an understatement, and my appreciation for this survivor of a different era has grown with each visit. Only a month later, Chris and I returned for yet another audience!
It’s my hope that many more follow the path less trodden, and find themselves face to face with the Wickenden Creek Giant. It’s an experience well worth the difficulty. Even if you don’t locate it the first time, perhaps the search will kindle your love of exploration, as I know it did for ours. Happy hunting!