Thursday, August 11, 2016

Back to the Red Creek Fir

"It's like ... it's like it's rising from the centre of the earth," breathed my normally unflappable brother-in-law.

Photo from WCWC
We drove this morning from Victoria to Port Renfrew, heading first to Avatar Grove. We hadn't been to the grove since July 2010, and back then there was really no infrastructure on-site. There's not much of it now, really, but enough to keep you mostly off the soil and so (in theory) not compacting the roots. It's a special place; you can find bigger cedars elsewhere, but the burls and gnarling are incredible. Plus it's an easy drive from Port Renfrew, with some signage and decent logging roads for the last few kilometres.

From there we drove back to Renfrew, eating at the fantastic Coastal Kitchen Cafe to fuel up for our return to the Red Creek Fir and to talk over what might mean we'd defer the trip for another time. When you're traversing an active logging road, a lot can happen in a year, and since we hadn't been there since last August, we needed to make sure we thought about our options and about possible risks.

Last year we'd tracked our distances and markers quite carefully (posted here), so we were comfortable with our approach. The first sign of trouble? Throwing the Cube into a ditch to avoid a logging truck, just a kilometre off the highway with still fourteen more to go: and then again two kilometres later.

Yep, there's active logging just a couple of kilometres before the world's largest Douglas fir, with Madill doing the work at this point. They're mostly building roads right now, but some trees have come down. We had to wait for some very large equipment to finish their tasks, at two different spots along the road, and the surface of Bear Main is pretty carved up. This has disrupted some of the markers we expected to depend upon, and that's going to get worse before it gets better. By the winter, there will be at least two main-looking roads going off each side of Bear Main, and that'll make it tough to find your way through to Mosquito Main.

WCWC folks, or improv troupe?
You decide
Still, we made it through safely, banging through some narrow and slightly overgrown tertiary logging roads to get there, and I was so pleased that we'd gone to Avatar Grove first. Big trees there, sure, but the Red Creek Fir is utterly, utterly astonishing. It's roughly fourteen feet across, forty-four feet around, and if those dimensions don't make sense to you, it's as wide as a Toyota Prius is long, and it's circumference is about the same as that of an 11' by 11' room.

And somehow, I haven't yet met anyone (outside the executive of either the Western Canada Wilderness Committee or the Ancient Forest Alliance) who has actually visited this tree. It's my happy place, but I don't want to be the only one who visits....

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