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For the love of (very big) trees

Welcome to my blog documenting my visits to big trees in British Columbia and beyond. I am planning to visit 43 Champion trees in BC between June 2018 and June 2019.

5. Yellow-cedar: Now entering sanctuary

5. Yellow-cedar: Now entering sanctuary

Leaving Comox, I drove north to Sayward, encountering logging trucks along the way. It was such a hot day that ravens on the shoulder were "panting" with their beaks open, and snakes were sunning themselves on the highway.

I stopped at the gas station for some water and directions to a Champion yellow-cedar. The coordinates on the BC Big Tree registry indicated the tree was "Between White R. and Adam R., north of Tlowils Lake; south of Sayward." It's a pretty big region to cover.

Thankfully, the woman working at the gas station knows this area well and gave me precise directions. The yellow-cedar, which stands 46.4 m high, and has a crown of 12.2 m and a circumference of 11.59 m, is actually in White River Provincial Park, the "Cathedral Grove of the North Island." 

From the gas station, cross Hwy 19 (the inner island highway) and take a right onto Oyer Road. Drive until you hit a T junction, where a gravel road begins. Go left at the T and over the Hugh Olson Memorial Bridge. After the bridge, take a right up a hill onto White River Road. You'll be in a residential area, with a paved road. Then the road becomes a gravel logging road.

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Trouble is my Yaris, and it was her first logging road, so we took it easy. I passed clearcuts and dense forest, looking for a sign for the park. The woman had told me the sign was very small and easy to miss. "There's a little brown sign that says 'now entering sanctuary.' They should make the sign bigger. People are always coming in here looking for big trees." She also advised me to check out the trees at Big Tree Rest Area, on Hwy 19 south of Sayward. 

Clearcut along logging road outside Sayward, with a moon rising.

Clearcut along logging road outside Sayward, with a moon rising.

Keeping an eye open for potholes, I drove past the 12 km marker, about 30 minutes at 30 km an hour. By this point it was late in the day, and I had no indication of how much farther I'd need to drive, so I turned around. I'll come back at some point to find this yellow-cedar, charmingly nicknamed Sir Daniel Samson, but in the spirit of citizen science, I'm sharing the directions here in case others would like to seek out this tree (there's a good photo on the BC Big Tree registry). If you go, watch out for logging trucks and make sure your brakes are in good click, as the road is a mix of hills and flat. The sign for the park is on the right-hand side of the road, and apparently there is no road or path from the logging road to this park. 

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From Sayward, I drove north to Port Hardy, where I checked into a hotel. The lobby smelled like cigarette smoke and the elevator like tomato soup. My hotel room smelled like packaged Hotel Smell TM, and was comfortingly decorated like my financial advisor's office, right down to the artwork. Nothing inspires a deep sleep like thoughts of the stock market. I had a fitful sleep and was up at 4 am to catch the MV Northern Expedition, up the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert. 

My Tracking Giants future is so bright, I gotta wear shades  and  close my peepers. Looking forward to returning to Sayward with my eyes open and more time to find this yellow-cedar.

My Tracking Giants future is so bright, I gotta wear shades and close my peepers. Looking forward to returning to Sayward with my eyes open and more time to find this yellow-cedar.

I don't mind telling you I had three naps while at sea yesterday. I also saw three or four whales, including a migrating humpback whale. From Prince Rupert, I'm heading to Terrace and New Aiyansh to see a Douglas maple and black cottonwood. Wish me luck.

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What you seek is seeking you.
— Rumi

Yellow-cedar (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis [D. Don] D.P. Little), Sayward, unceded territories of K'ómoks, Kwakwaka'wakw, Kwak̓wala

6. Black cottonwood: Just around the corner

6. Black cottonwood: Just around the corner

4. Cascara: Are you my mother?

4. Cascara: Are you my mother?