It was the strangest of apparitions on a cool, rainy morning in the Nahmint River Valley. A gnarled, towering, broken topped Douglas fir, rising abruptly into the mist, and beckoning us to make its acquaintance. We had to investigate! Though the tree was a relatively short distance away, precarious ground made for a painstakingly slow approach, and the nearer we got, the more peculiar it became!
The far reaches of the Alberni Valley hold innumerable surprises, but few seem more unlikely than the Heimdallr Fir. This massive coastal Douglas fir has not only survived many centuries, but it has managed to do so despite a wide array of challenges. I visited this well hidden giant in the summer of 2021 with my good friend Greg, who had assured me it was well worth seeing.
It was a warm summer’s day in mid July, as Greg and I trekked our way up a steeply rugged road in the remote reaches of the Alberni Valley. Earlier in the summer, we had been discussing the forests of Vancouver Island, when he had presented me with an idea. Was I interested in exploring one the most idyllic and impressive yellow cedar groves he had ever seen? The answer, naturally, was an emphatic “Yes!”
This year, I’ve been generously introduced to the wonders of the Nahmint River Valley, an irrepressible wilderness to which I have grown increasingly attached with each successive visit.
Picture in your mind an ancient coastal temperate rainforest, undisturbed by man. Moss laden branches reach high into the canopy from the massive trunks that anchor them to terra firma. Home to considerable biodiversity and abundant wildlife, places like these are among the finest examples of nature at work. Everything is purposeful, from the smallest cone, to the chattering of the Red squirrel, to the fallen giant decaying quietly amidst the ferns.
When the topic of Seymour Valley’s big trees comes up, as it often does in my world, one of the first places I recommend visiting is the Old Growth Trail. Set deep in the heart of the valley near the Seymour Dam, and surrounded by the North Shore Mountains, it has a magic you won’t find anywhere else!
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.
There was a time that the east coast of Vancouver Island was home to countless stands of ancient Douglas fir trees that numbered among the finest British Columbia had to offer. While it’s well documented that most of them fell to the crosscut saws of the colonial era, there are, if you take the time to search, some remaining gems to be seen. One such tree is the one I call the Kitty Coleman Fir. Reputed to be the largest remaining tree in the Comox Valley by some accounts, it rests in a quiet clearing in its namesake park, just as it has for centuries.
Ever so slowly, our bikes rolled to a stop, as Doug gestured quietly, pointing toward the forest. There, happily grazing, was a robust young deer enjoying her morning solitude beside the Seymour Valley Trailway. While pulling out my camera to document the moment, I began to get the feeling this was going to be an illustrious day!
It was a sunny spring morning back in May of 2018, silent save for the sounds of birds and my bicycle, as I crossed the Hydraulic Creek Bridge. A ride in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve (LSCR) was certainly nothing unusual for me, but this one was to be distinctively different. Continue reading A Return to the Eagles Nest Grove