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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!