Friday, July 27, 2012

Big firs, smaller furs and feathers on Vancouver Island

Why did I get the feeling I was stuck in the intro to the old Friendly Giant TV show for kids?

Probably because I was looking up  ... w-a-y up.

But of course, that's what you do when you visit Cathedral Grove - you look way up into the towering Douglas fir trees that make up the grove. Some of them are more than 800 years old. To put that into perspective, they have been around for almost 300 years before Columbus landed in the Caribbean. They have been around since the Magna Carta was signed. They have been around as long as people have been jumping in boats with paddles. They have been around almost as long as the Toronto Maple Leafs' Stanley Cup drought. (Well, okay, maybe they're a little older than that...)

While it may be difficult to wrap our heads around something that old, it's certainly not difficult to see these Doug-firs are some big honkin' trees. One of the largest is more than nine metres (that's 10 yards) around at the base, the distance of one first down in football.

As for the height...let's just say that even if the aforementioned Friendly Giant teamed up with the Jolly Green Giant and Giant-Man, and they formed a human ladder by standing on each other's shoulders, they would still not be able to put the star on the top of most of these Christmas trees.

Although it is a grove, and it's located away from some of Vancouver Island's larger cities, with all the tourists that frequently visit the site, it certainly does not boast a cathedral-like ambiance, at least in terms of quiet and meditative qualities.

Walking through Cathedral Grove
It actually reminded me of rush hour in downtown Vancouver, there was so much traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian - just more trees. And it was barely summer season (the long weekend in May, to be exact). 

Despite all that, it is spectacular to see.

I spent part of a day there with Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours as part of the company's Spirit of the Animal Ancestors tour. (This tour has since been dropped, and replaced by the very similar Ancient Forest Grove Nature Ecotour)

Following a pick-up at the Quality Resort Bayside located in Parksville, it was a fairly quick drive, just 25 km west on Highway 4, and we were there.

We had an aboriginal guide, Tom, who took us through the forest and explained what the area had meant to his people, sharing stories from his culture.
After we were finished having our breaths taken away, we headed back the way we'd come - but not all the way back. First, we paid a visit to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, a wildlife rescue-and-rehab facility located outside of Parksville, on Leffler Road in Errington.

Heron diorama in the nature museum
There we saw some display dioramas in the facility's museum of nature as well as many of the animals they were in the process of rehabilitating, including a black bear, some eagles and a rare white raven, in enclosures outside the museum. (No parrots, though - saw them earlier in the day at the World Parrot Refuge .

Again, because we were early in the season, we did not have the opportunity to watch any of the live raptor shows which take place during the summer months.

Then it was time to leave, and say good-bye to the eagles, hawks, ravens - and let's not forget Rusty the Rooster...

A happy ending for this healed bald eagle.

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