If you’re an aspiring tree hunter, or if you’re just looking for something to explore, there are times that new discoveries have a way of staring you in the face. What I mean by that is that on your quest for other objectives, whether well known or obscure, you might just encounter something interesting along the way. That was the case yesterday, when I decided to investigate a sizeable Douglas Fir that I had noticed a couple of years ago.
Before I get too far into what happened, however, first a little background! When you’re driving the Inland Island Highway (Highway19A), just south of the intersection where you turn off to visit Horne Lake, you can’t help but notice a giant Douglas Fir snag. Lately it’s been made even more conspicuous because a local tree company has attached a sign to advertise their wares. At any rate, once you sight that, your gaze tends to be drawn to the opposite side of the highway, where the crown of another huge fir, still alive, pierces the sky abruptly. The location is immediately north of the overpass that bridges Kinkade Creek. In this Google Maps image, the snag appears at right from a southbound perspective, and the tree I checked out is at left in the photograph.
Considering that I had but a few hundred feet to walk at most, getting to this fir was anything but simple. Though I knew it was close, there were plenty of obstructions to deal with. Those included, but not limited to, were large fallen trees, rotted stumps, trees growing on on said fallen trees, a maze of crisscrossed branches, and a forest floor that somehow seemed bottomless. To top it all off, there was an intricate network of ground growing blackberries. You know, the kind that slash exposed flesh! While there are times I question being a dedicated tree hunter, I tend to just trust the process and take my time, knowing all of my senses will be needed to reach any objective safely. In the case of this tree, I would recommend taking all precautions, and if you’re not a particularly experienced bushwhacker you might want to give it a pass and just enjoy these photos!
I was glad to have followed up on my suspicions, to put it mildly. It turns out that this aging giant was indeed a Douglas Fir that likely began its life five or six centuries ago, at minimum. Trees such as these in the region of central Vancouver Island have become a rarity, the majority having been logged many decades ago. Notable remaining stands still live on in provincial parks such as Kitty Coleman, Rathtrevor, Miracle Beach, Cathedral Grove, and also in Qualicum Heritage Forest. This particular specimen, I believe, resides on private land, but hopefully the landowner will allow it to remain standing.
The entire excursion felt kind of surreal, considering I could constantly hear the onrushing cars passing on the highway in the background. That made it somewhat difficult to focus on the sounds of the forest, be it birds, animals, insects, or, most importantly, the cracking, breaking, and shifting of branches and potential falling trees. It took about fifteen careful minutes to reach this fir, and even then it somehow seemed to sneak up on me!
On the way back to my vehicle, I was just as careful. I made a futile attempt to wander a bit further south to find easier ground, but had to return to my original route when I encountered the banks of the creek. In the process, I also stumbled upon another great fir of similar vintage that had fallen to earth decades before!
To summarize, I was pleased to have made this foray, if only to allay my curiosity. Imagine what life might have been like for this now ancient fir as it grew to maturity. I’m sure it could never have envisioned sitting so close to a major thoroughfare with cars and trucks rolling by, if trees think about such things. Hopefully, life will go on for the tree, which I’m going to call the Kinkade Creek Fir, but time will be the one to tell that tale. Me? I’m just glad to have made its acquaintance!