Port Renfrew road trip

We spent a few days on Vancouver Island for Christmas with Tara’s family at their place in Sooke. I have tried to make a point of visiting somewhere new on the Island every time we go, it’s such a large place with so much beauty to discover, it would seem a shame not to.

This time around it was Avatar Grove and its giant trees that captured my attention. Rain hail or shine I was determined to head up the highway along the West Coast of the island to see this place of wonder. We stopped in Jordan River, a small town popular with surfers, and let Lukla out for a play on the beach before heading off again.

Port Renfrew is a somewhat isolated community that is subject to power outages and road closures. A paved road has recently been opened that connects the town via old logging roads around to the Cowichan Valley area. There are a number of other ancient tree sites out in that direction, but we will have to save that for another visit.

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Crossing a bridge on the way to Avatar Grove just out of Port Renfrew

Parking on the side of the road, we took the uphill side of the trail first. A short hike in takes you past a number of impressive forest giants that dwarf other trees around them that aren’t so small themselves. The fog was hanging in the tree tops eerily and the slight breeze could be heard sliding through the trees. At the top of the trail was the largest tree in diameter that we had seen so far, with an incredibly gnarly trunk.


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With a giant tangled rootball and huge burl mid-way up the lower trunk, this was the largest tree on the high side of the trail.
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The forest was just magical with the mist in the canopy and the diffused light bouncing off of the moisture that covers everything

After much admiration, we returned to the road and then descended down into the lower loop of the grove. More beautiful forest scenes rich with ferns, nurse logs, trees of many generations and recent tree fall were all around us. One particularly large specimen had toppled over not too long ago. Its sheer size and the effect of endless rain, wind and slow erosion slowly leading to its demise. Still, it will support much new life as it returns to the earth and spawns a new generation of forest growth and habitat for other living things.

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I wish my back yard looked like this.
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A massive nurse log with an even bigger “sappling” growing out of it.

The lower loop was filled with incredible examples of a few different species of trees, one the tallest, one the oldest, one the largest at the trunk. Each one demanded that I stop to marvel at its majesty and all it has witnessed. All it has withstood. The fact that loggers many many years ago chose not to take it for one reason or another. 600, 800, 1000 years of standing here through summers & winters, storms and sunshine. They have stood while wars were fought, turmoil engrossed the earth and then peace came again, empires and dynasties rose and fell. How many great people were born, changed the world we know, and passed away? All while these trees just stood here. Silent. The moments I spent sharing that silence left me with a great sense of familiar humility, similar to that after staring up at the stars on a clear, dark night and accepting that you are but a collection of borrowed organic matter that one day will also return to the earth and continue the cycle of life.

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It was hard to pick a favourite but this one seemed to captivate me in a special way.
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Probably the biggest tree we saw. Its girth and gnarly burls gave it a striking presence that could not be surpassed.

I highly recommend visiting Avatar Grove. There are more photographs from this trip in a Flickr Album here and you can find more information on the area at the Ancient Forest Alliance website here



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