The Unheralded Stoney Creek Fir

Nearly nine kilometres along the Seymour Valley Trailway, in North Vancouver’s Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve (LSCR), stands a distinctively towering Douglas Fir. It receives thousands and thousands of visitors every year, standing as it does, alongside a popular recreational trail.

Yet, if there is such a thing as hiding in plain sight, then this venerable citizen of the forest may as well have mastered the art of invisibility. You see, despite the fact that it’s entirely conspicuous, most pass it by without even a second thought!

Note that on this map Stoney Creek Picnic Site is something of a misnomer, as Stoney Creek itself is further south

I’ve always referred to the tree as the Stoney Creek Fir, simply because it sits right beside the well marked Stoney Creek Bridge. The creek itself, by contrast, is anything but easy to access. It drains eventually into the Seymour River, and has its origins in steep, rugged canyons high above the Seymour Valley. The terrain there is particularly unfriendly, slow to cover, and is definitely not recommended for novice hikers.

The cliffs of Upper Stoney Creek Canyon….photo courtesy of Doug Pope
Ancient cedar in the Stoney Creek Canyon…photo courtesy of Doug Pope

My first meeting with this tree came many years ago, when the new trail had just opened. I’d just come around a bend in the road on my bike, and like everyone else who cycles the route, I was just looking forward to some downhill travel. As the bridge came into view, all that changed! In all my years of hunting ancient trees in the Seymour Valley, the Stoney Creek Fir was certainly among the easiest to find. “Imagine that?” I remember thinking. “A tree perhaps five centuries old, nearly eight feet wide, and close to one hundred and fifty feet high and it is parked right beside a bike path!” Since then, of course, it’s become a favourite stop. To my long time friend and fellow adventurer Doug, it’s become even more than that; he’s been attempting to grow some seedlings from this living legend!

The Stoney Creek Fir is quite a specimen. Unofficially speaking, it is likely between 400 and 500 years old and well over seven feet in diameter at breast height!
The Stoney Creek Fir on a rainier day…photo courtesy of Doug Pope
This part of the Seymour Valley was once, of course, home to many trees like the Stoney Creek Fir, but most were logged in the early 20th century

As one can plainly see, the tree is in robust health despite the fact that it is well exposed to the elements. I’ve little doubt that it was once far taller, as closer examination reveals that the top has broken and restructured itself over the years. The straightness of its trunk is also remarkable, almost giving this grand specimen an air of defiance, considering the history it has survived.

The crown of the Stoney Creek Fir is vigorously healthy
A straight and powerful trunk

Several years ago, before I moved to Vancouver Island, I made a point of stopping for lunch with this giant. I knew it would be a while before I saw it again. While I watched quietly nearby, several hundred people rode past the tree without so much as a glance. It thus occurred to me that there is nothing so stoic as the existence of trees, as they have little need for notoriety. Their future, ironically, depends on being recognized by our society for no other purpose than being exceptional, and our dedication to preserving them. I cannot think of a nobler cause.

Stoney Creek Fir…photo courtesy of Doug Pope

*******AUTHOR’S NOTE*******

Since the Stoney Creek Fir might well be his favourite tree, this story is dedicated to Doug Pope, with whom I’ve spent countless hours exploring the North Shore Mountains. A lot of what I write about on these pages can be traced back to Doug one way or another. Next round’s on me, Doug!

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