Firmly Rooted Naturally - West Wind Hardwood

Road trips!  Why the appeal?  Sap rising – Spring Juices Flowing

We’ve always got our motor running; but not on a Harley.  We’re heading on the highway but in this instance it’s the Pacific Marine Road.  Lookin’ for adventure…..maybe yes; maybe not so much.  We are however happy to take whatever comes our way, and it brought us to the Harris Creek Spruce Tree.

The last time Jan and I were on this road was back some 25 years ago.  The road was a gravel logging road and the 300 km loop was considered a splendid day trip; a means of getting out of the house and clearing the cobwebs.  We had babies in the back and a picnic lunch in the trunk.  Back then we had choices; head towards Shawnigan Lake, or take the longer route to Lake Cowichan.  Today, its one road only to Lake Cowichan and it’s a busy thoroughfare even on a cold, wet day.  It’s paved.  It’s scenic. A summer trip is calling.  There are periodic wilderness picnic and camping spots and it looks to offer good fly-fishing opportunities.  Woodland glory!!  If travelling mid-week, remember to take it slow and watch for logging trunks flying along.  This is still an actively logged area.

Well into crossing from east to west – closer to Port Renfrew – on the 300 km Pacific Marine Circle Tour (south Vancouver Island) is the giant Harris Creek Spruce tree.  Over 80 metres tall, it towers above the surrounding 2nd growth forest.  Somehow this 200+ year old tree managed to escape the European saw blade of the late 1800’s.  And, even though it’s not protected in a provincial park, the unofficial respect and awe from all is evident.   

“We must protect the forests for our children; grandchildren and children yet to be born.  We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.”
~Quatsomas – (hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

Was a representative in the House of Smayusta , the traditional form of Nuxalk Governmernt in Bella Coola

From the road, this giant can’t be seen.  There is a ‘point of interest’ sign to draw your attention and in less than a minute walk from the car, its enormous trunk looms; the trunk and branches coated in a myriad of green mosses.

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“Every craggy and gnarled tree has its own strange and graceful legend attached to it.”

~Douglas Hyde (Dubhghlas de hÍde) known as An Craoibhín Aoibhinn (“The Pleasant Little Branch”)

An Irish scholar of the Irish language who served as the first President of Ireland from 1938 to 1945. He founded the Gaelic League, one of the most influential cultural organisations in Ireland at the time. 

Sitka spruce is uniquely adapted to the coastline.  They will not be found further than about 80 km from the ocean; their preferred habitat.  These trees can tolerate salt spray from the pound waves; one of the few trees that can.  When away from the surf, Sitka spruce grows in the low lying river valleys that dissect the coastal hills and penetrate inland.  The Harris Creek spruce is beautifully situated right next to Harris Creek.  Sitka spruce are fast growing trees; living up to 800 years making them one of the oldest trees in the Pacific coastal forest.  This one has not been dated, but it certainly can be measured in the hundreds of years.  And quite possibly, will be around for your great-great grandchildren to visit in amazement.

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Port Renfrew, BC is a small, rugged community of 200 residents located on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the open Pacific Ocean; sitting in the shelter of Port San Juan. Situated between the west coast temperate rainforest and the Pacific Ocean, Port Renfrew was built on the logging and fishing industries.

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Home to the Pacheedaht People (People of the Sea Foam) for centuries, the Spanish and the English explored the local waters in the late 1700s. Settlers came to Vancouver Island’s San Juan River Valley in the mid 1800s after being offered homestead land and the promise of a road; however, supplies were delivered by boat for decades to come, as the road was not completed until 1954.  While there was a brief gold rush in 1864-65, logging and fishing remained the main attractions to the area for settlers over the years.  Indeed, most of the forest around Port Renfrew has been logged two or three times – which is precisely why ancient trees that have avoided disease, fire and logging companies for up to 1,000 years have attracted so much attention.

Today tourism has overtaken fishing and logging and become the number one industry in the area and Ancient Forest Alliance photographer TJ Watt discovered a stand of ancient cedars in 2009, many of the largest ones were tagged for logging. In a clever marketing move, the alliance dubbed the trees “Avatar Grove,” after the blockbuster James Cameron movie, drawing massive public attention to the trees and ultimately leading to their protection.

These days, visitors to Port Renfrew can pick up a map to the area’s largest trees and set out to explore what’s been coined the Big Tree Capital of Canada.  While some of Canada’s largest trees are out of reach of typical vehicular travel, there are still plenty of accessible giants.  The map indicates both upper and lower Avatar Grove, the San Juan Spruce and Harris Creek Spruce.  The San Juan spruce is Canada’s largest Sitka Spruce tree; standing taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa at 62.5 metres and a circumference of 11.6 metres.

“Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pines trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.”

~Henry David Thoreau

An American philosopher, poet, and environmental scientist whose major work, Walden, draws upon each of these identities in meditating on the concrete problems of living in the world as a human being.

Wood is the only truly renewable resource; BC’s Wood First Initiative puts a lens on wood as a primary building material, bringing respect to the industry AND West Wind Hardwood is FSC-certified.  Ask us how we can help you with climate-friendly construction whilst supporting our forest-dependent communities.  We offer high quality products from sustainably managed forests.  We can help you LEED projects.  We offer technical support on the use of wood and wood products.  ASK US!!

“A fool sees not the same tree that wise man sees.”

~William Blake

An English poet, painter, and printmaker, and largely unrecognized during his lifetime.

4 Comments

  1. The Sitka Spruce because of its superior strength to weight ratio along with its availability in long clear straight grained boards is the favoured wood for use is building airplanes…….Unforturnately it is becoming ever scarcer. It was heavily cut during WW2 as many of the training aircraft were largely built of wood because of the high demand for aluminum and steel for fighters, bombers and other weapons of war.
    Because of this douglas Fir has seen increased use in the amatuer built field in. In spite of its heavier weight it is still obtainable in the grades and sizes needed for this use. Because of its greater strength dimensions can be reduced by up to 10%, but with care and caution.
    For my last project I used Coast Hemlock. In strength and ease of working it falls somewhere between Spruce and Douglas Fir and often available in quarter sawn, (some say edge grain) stock, making it suitable for wing spars.
    Engleman and White Spruce are satisfactory substitutes for Sitka if material free of knots and sufficently long can be located.
    I must stress that any material that has not been inspected and stamped OK for aircraft use must be carefully inspected for cross grain and spiral grain. I always remove enough from every board I use for testing. this includes splitting a sample piece to be sure the grain does not deviate beyond standards. I also have a jig specially built to test for strength. When your life well may depend upopn it a builder must not compromise when it comes to materials used in his ship…..
    bob pearce…..EAA10189

  2. If one wants to see similar trees of age and species (Cedar, Fir) then one should travel up to the Ancient Cedar Forest, 100 km east of Prince George on Highway 16. This forest has been called The Ancient Cedar Forest is protected, and is a growing tourist attraction in Northeast B.C.

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