The Westside Cedar

The Big Cedar Trail to Kennedy Falls is aptly named. Roughly two and half kilometres from the trailhead, the track leads intrepid hikers to an ancient Western Red Cedar that’s over six hundred and fifty years old! Ironically, however, those who reach it have often unknowingly walked right by an equally formidable specimen. Inconspicuously, after about a kilometre from the trailhead, you will reach a washed out creek where the trail has been obviously rerouted. Once past that creek, a faint spur winds downhill to your right onto a bench below. There, in a quiet glade, rests what I call the Westside Cedar. This tree has become part of my family history, and now I’d like to help you make it part of yours!

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An early photo with the Westside Cedar. This is the very attractive Mrs BCtreehunter with long time family dog Amigo
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Me with the Westside Cedar….photo by Matt Casselman

This tree, which measures over fourteen and a half feet at its widest diameter, allows one to imagine the forest that once surrounded it. It’s in vigorous health, as its location serves to nourish it well while shielding it from the brunt of local storms. Picture, if you will, the forests of the Lynn Creek Valley as they once were, with trees like this being far more common, and an understory rich with plant life. But wait! Someday, if you decide to explore the forests north of Kennedy Falls, you’ll discover much of that paradise is still preserved! Many champions still live on in the Kennedy and Wickenden drainages, though even today but a few experience them.

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Good friend Rich Sobel with the tree, circa 2005
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Inside the hollowed chamber, long ago…photo by Mrs BCtreehunter

Returning to the story at hand, a trip to see this giant cedar should not be overlooked. After all, it’s a survivor of at least seven hundred winters so far! I first learned of the tree when I became engrossed with exploring Lynn Headwaters Park, spurred on by the writings of  well known conservationist Randy Stoltmann. Randy, who died in a skiing accident back in 1994, was the same individual who spearheaded the preservation of the Carmanah Valley and his work endures to this day!

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Conservationist Randy Stoltmann. In his  short life he accomplished so much, especially in the province of British Columbia…photo from Bivouac website

I had also been told Randy had been member of the North Shore Hikers, who had originally maintained a number of the trails on the west side of Lynn Creek, including what is now the Big Cedar Trail to Kennedy Falls (sometimes known as the Westside Trail ). Additionally, they also marked a route that begins on the Cedar Mills Trail, fords Lynn Creek, and ascends to the Big Cedar Trail that one can also use to reach the Westside Cedar. That trail is still there, but sees limited use today.

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Me with the tree back in 2007…photo by Doug Pope

It’s difficult to say exactly why this tree managed to escape being cut back in the early 1900s. It’s actually situated very close to what was one of Julius Fromme’s logging camps, so I like to think they knew about it but nevertheless allowed it to live. The surrounding forest is almost entirely given to second growth timber, so I’ve always believed my explanation for its survival was as good as any other.

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Lynn Creek is less than a kilometre downhill from the tree

 

Typical of many ancient Western Red Cedars, this massive tree presents itself in many different ways, depending on which side you’re viewing it from. The inner trunk is also partially hollowed, and the bark is markedly thick and furrowed, especially on the face that seems to get the most sunlight. Seven centuries is a long time to live, and that time has given it unforgettable character!

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The Westside Cedar does make a remarkable first impression
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The inner and hollowed chamber of the tree. I’m not sure whether your mom ever had that talk with you, but…

 

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The bark is thicker and more vigorous on the south and east facing sides of the Westside Cedar
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Me climbing the tree. To give you an idea of the scale, I’m about 6’1″ and 200 lbs…photo by Matt Casselman
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A look at the top of the tree, showing its multiple leaders
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This aspect is the least photographed, but it shows a very interesting division in the bark’s growth
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The twisting trunk is what made this tree one of my favourites
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A vertical panorama
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This photo displays the tree’s exceptional girth!
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The base of the tree, with my hiking poles adjusted out to around five feet, shows its size here

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If you can manage to secure a parking spot in the Mt Fromme mountain bike lot on Mountain Highway, you can comfortably hike to this tree in about an hour or so. Better still, unlike many trails in the North Shore Mountains, the terrain is reasonably manageable, so you can even bring the kids! However you get there, I highly encourage a visit, but I warn you, seeing it for the first time is what inspired me to spend many years exploring the forests of Lynn Headwaters. If by chance it causes you to do the same, I hope that you enjoy every minute of it as much as I have!

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Me, doing what I do, striving for the ideal picture…photo by Rich Sobel

17 thoughts on “The Westside Cedar”

  1. Very cool! Will have to check this out! I go visit the Giant Cedar quite often, usually by way of the old trail off Cedar Mills and fording Lynn Creek (it’s still there if you know where to look).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi. Is there any possibility for me to go with you in your next hike? I love trees and nature but don not want to go alone .
    Please let me know

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great read. From your directions is it 1km from trailhead or 1km past the Western Red Cedar on the way to falls?

    thanks

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    1. Thanks Robert! I meant that the spur that you turn down is about a km or so from the trailhead. Start watching for it when you reach a section of the trail which has been obviously rerouted to avoid a washout. You’ll also see exposed banks along the washed out creek. Once you pass all that the turnoff will be to your right, the footbed is clear but I’m not sure whether it’s otherwise marked

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  4. Hey Mick, and anyone else who is interested in this tree: the spur is very lightly marked from the main trail. I thought about putting a new marker up, but I left it alone. However I did put up three markers in the last half of the trail to the tree to help people find their way in (but mostly out, because everything looks the same once you’re in).

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    1. I was thinking of taking a waypoint of the turnoff and never did get around to it. We marked the junction with pink tape several times and it was repeatedly removed, not sure why. Thanks for marking it in that way, it should help!

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      1. My guess is it’s probably people that don’t want it known, or not wanting it to confuse people doing the main trail. I figure it’s not my place to mark the spur (the old marker is faintly visible anyway), but thought it was a good idea to mark a bit near the clearing for the tree. At least for my sake so that I take the correct way out from now on lol

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  5. Checked out the tree today with the family. Impressive and very cool. There is also a sizable fir a little further down towards the creek past the Cedar. The markers further in on the trail are nice.

    Was the old logging camp right in this area? The only sign of anything is what appeared to be a ring of rocks probably a fire pit at one point. This could have been from 20 years ago though too. The ground was very soft and I didn’t want to do much off trail exploration as this area seems like it could get trampled very easily.

    I saw a fair amount of flagging on what looked to be a number of old logging spur roads heading west towards Fromme off of the main trail. Any idea if there is any interesting exploring if one was to head west up these old logging roads? (Guess one way to find out).

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a nice fir, isn’t it? There are a few more scattered here and there in nearby areas. There was a logging camp(s) in the area but they, as far as I know, were located in different areas than the Westside Cedar is. There are a lot of campfire rings in the area made by people that I’ve found over the years. There are a variety of bike trails that come off of Fromme as well and as you say, plenty of old spurs. If you do what I’ve done over the years you can kind of explore them one at a time, I guess!

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  6. Thanks for sharing this really enjoyed reading it. Earlier in the year I checked out Kennedy falls and the big cedar and had no idea this tree was only a short distance away. I checked it out today and it was as amazing one of the most impressive trees I’ve ever seen. Hope to find some of the other amazing trees you mention in your posts soon!

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  7. One of my favourite big trees. I always think I don’t remember how to find it but it never fails, as soon as I’m at a certain point on the trail I know where to veer off. If I have to climb over a certain log, I know I’m in the right place. I’ve yet to pick the wrong route. I’m always so happy to see this tree. I swear, it hugs back when you give it a hug.

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