Sunday, April 08, 2007

Big Trees, Big Fun

Spring has sprung, like a leaky faucet from the sky.

Went on my first camping trip of the year this long Easter weekend. Got away into the wilds of the Walbran Valley (West Walbran actually, more accurately the Haddon Valley).
But some background first. Why drag the dog and the wife away from the comforts of home to spend a wet night in the outback?
Firstly, I spent the first portion of this week at work on the business end of a very large chainsaw, bucking up some seriously big trees into firewood. This was part of some Provincial Park maintenance scheme to make the parks more accessible to people after the winter storms. It was saddening to lay into some of these logs, bucking them to mere firewood. They would have made beautiful lumber, but alas, that would have created just too much paper work, so chop-chop. This is me re-enacting the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

This is my good friend Mike, just looking cool with those curly locks.

Secondly, while padding a day of survey work, I had the chance to visit the start of The West Walbran Trail, a little known, and little traveled goat path that winds its way down Haddon Creek towards the Walbran Valley. Along this trail is Maxine's Tree, the second largest Sitka Spruce in Canada (probably the world). This got me thinking about a trip to visit big trees. I've had the privilege of seeing some big trees, but now I wanted to see the biggest (or in one case the second biggest). I also know of the location of the largest tree in all of Canada. I tied the two together and voila...a trip was formed. The hard part was convincing Kira that she should spend a night in the cold and rain.
We arrived, after a two-plus hour drive at the trail head, and hiked our way down Haddon Creek towards Anderson Lake, a small lake that is/was used as a campsite. The number of people who make this voyage has declined in the years since the battle to protect this part of the forest was won, so the trail was in rough shape. It took about two hours to make the lake, navigating around the abundant blowdown was sometimes difficult, and we lost the trail more than once. From Anderson lake, it was about another 45 minutes to Maxine's Tree, the Second Largest Sitka Spruce in Canada ( the biggest is also on the Island). At 80.77m in height, it is not the tallest, nor with a circumference of 12.65m, is it the girthiest, but due to the lack of taper, this tree weighs in at a whopping 266 cubic metres of wood. Its location amongst smaller trees makes it stand out all the more. In fact, it almost looks out of place. There is no sign telling you that this is the tree, but you know it when you see it.

We hiked out and made our camp a few km's away at a little lake (Kira's conditions for agreeing to camp were that we camped somewhere we could drive so we could bring lots of blankets). The evening was nice, with a bottle of wine and only a little drizzle. Our propane stove wouldn't function, so we had to improvise with campfire cuisine: such as smokies on a stick, and cedar plank Annie's mac and cheese.
In the morning, we rose to slightly less appealing weather, went for a warm up hike around Hadikin Lake (got lost, but struggled through). Then we packed up, and headed off to our next destination: The Cheewat Giant, Canada's largest tree.

I've been to the Cheewat Cedar a few times before (usually at work), but each time is worth the 45-minute hike. When we arrived at the rather intentionally obscure trail head, it was officially pouring rain: Biblical style (very appropriate for Easter Sunday). We slipped and slid our way down the trail, and over the recent blowdown, and eventually found ourselves at the base of the giant.
The Cheewat Giant is an ugly beast of a Red Cedar. There are several trees around it that are more aesthetically pleasing, but none are as imposing.

At 18.34m in circumference, this baby is a force to be reckoned with. True, one could argue, it is actually two massive trees that have grown together in the 2500 years plus of its life, but technically speaking, because it is one trunk at mean breast height (1.3m), this giant wins, with an astounding 449 cubic metres of wood. It's scared, it's diseased, but it is truly huge.

We scurried back up to the truck, stripped naked, put on dry clothes, and zoomed off home. It’s nice to be back, in the warm and the dry. The dog nearly ran herself dead; she’s sleeping it off as we speak. But it was worth it. All in all, a good start to the spring.

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Blogger Spider Girl said...

I recently heard that the bigeest living things on the plant are trees and all the biggest ones are in North America.

I know there are much older ones, but anything living that's survived a few thousand years is impressive no matter how aesthetically pleasing it may be in comparison to its neighbours.

Too bad it rained though--I had a rather indoor Easter weekend myself.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Spider Girl said...

I think they said the oldest tree in the world was about 5000 years old.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ciao Adam, It looks like you and Kira and Sasha had a really great Easter weekend. What's a little rain when you get to see such wonderful things! Besides if you stayed at home when it pours you'd hardly ever get anywhere.I didn't know the two biggest tres were on the island(now I do).Love to all three of you, Mom

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! Found your blog thru searching for Cheewhat Lake Cedar. Could you give me directions to this tree? GPS coordinates even?
i'd very much appreeciate it!


3:36 PM  
Anonymous Roland said...

Yesterday (27/7/07) my wife and I attempted to find this tree. The way is VERY poorly marked with tape. Saw some big cedars, but never found the Cheewat. Tapes petered out and we got lost searching for tree. Eventually had to bushwack back out the the road. VERY hard.!Took us two hours!! This trail is dangerous without GPS!!

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been to that grove as well. The last time we were on the island, we did a small tour which included the tree, East Sooke and Rathtrevor Beach.

We stayed in some really nice places provided by a great company called EMR Vacation Rentals.

The next time we are around, we want to go looking for the big trees north of Port Renfrew and hike the trails of East Sooke Park.

11:19 PM  

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