When you go outside, into nature, what are you drawn to? What are you pulled towards?
For me, surprise, surprise, it’s more often than not, the forest and the big trees. Sometimes, it’s the lakes, rivers, ocean or the mountains.
I love trees, the bigger the better, and in particular, the Coastal Douglas Firs.
It was 7 months ago today that I had the amazing opportunity to go up into the canopy of my favourite tree. Thanks to the innovative company out of Oregon, Expedition Old Growth, I was safely secured into a harness by Matt Beatty, their BC area rep, and was lifted on an elevator system into the tree tops. I was a bit nervous about going so high off the ground dangling from a rope beside the beautiful Echo Lake in Harrison Mills, BC. The professionalism of the crew, they’re friendly and energetic demeanour put me at ease. I think I was about 30 feet up before I really began to relax and feel safe and to enjoy the ride, exploring the trees bark, branches and view along the way. Once I reached the top I was met by the company’s owner, Damien Carré and a biologist, Becky, to tell me more about the trees and the local ecosystem.
The world looked different from up there. If I remember correctly, it was about 130 feet up, and the tree, about 500 years old. A literal birds eye view. I told Damien I wanted his job. I could not imagine being able to experience trees this way on a day to day basis like he and the other crew members have the privilege of doing.
The bark was pitchy and thick, the needles were soft, the branches were, some strong, some broken, big and small, weathered, and of all shapes and sizes.
I could have stayed up there forever.
2 days earlier I met another enormous Fir, Big Lonely Doug. Named so because the tree stands alone in a clearcut in Port Renfrew, BC. At the time I didn’t realize the effect this tree would have on my life. I still don’t know how to explain it. I have thoughts of awe, sadness, strength, wisdom, perseverance, and so much more, when I think of it.
Last week my daughter was on spring break and I took her to see Big Lonely Doug, and other large trees in the area, including the Red Creek Fir- the Largest Douglas Fir in the WORLD!!
I did not have the chance to meet this tree 7 months ago because the road was gated. Since then it has reopened and I had acquired a, new to me, vehicle, a 4x4, so I could get to these 2 specific trees. I had to know that I could visit Big (not so ) Lonely Doug, and find the Red Creek Fir.
The drive to the Red Creek Fir was not an easy one. I brought my dad with us as a co-navigator of logging roads that were not on my GPS. There were some wrong turns, big trucks and machines, and many clearcuts along the way. I almost gave up a couple times, and didn’t want to come so far to not succeed. So on we went, windows open to listen for trucks, maps and guide books in hand.
There were a few signs along the way, yet they seemed too few and far between for my liking. Then finally, it seemed out of nowhere, there it was! The sign indicating the parking area beside the trail to the 20 minute walk to the Red Creek Fir!!! I had waited what felt like so long to meet this tree.
We followed the trail and came to the 3 giant cedars. We stopped and took some pictures and to admire them. I noticed they grew in a line and wondered if they all started out on the same nurse log many years ago. Amazing in themselves, I knew we were closing in on the Red Creek Fir. A bit of a ways up I looked up, and I could see it’s top, towering over the forest. I ran towards the tree, then stopped in front of it, and tears fell from my eyes. This tree, this being in front of me, was more than I could have ever imagined, and I was honoured to be standing here with it.
I looked up in awe, walked around it gently taking in every possible inch of it’s gorgeous magnitude. Its rough, thick bark. The soft moss and small trees growing on it. The enormous fallen branch in front of it…….
I’d made it. I was hugging, resting my head and hands on, the Red Creek Fir. The World’s Largest (known) Douglas Fir.
The weather was changing between rain and hail and it was cold and wet. In all my excitement we hadn’t eaten enough and my daughter was having a melt down.
We had a snack, took a few more pictures, gave the tree a few more hugs and kisses. We thanked the Red Creek Fir for being with us today. I said the same thing I did to Big Lonely Doug the day before, and 7 months ago. Stand Strong, Stand Tall and Stand Safe. I love You. Thank You. I will be back to visit you again.
I find it hard to leave these majestic giants. They fill me with such strength, optimism, joy, wisdom, and love that nothing else can. I am able to go only in knowing that I will return.
When I booked my “Big Tree Trip” last August I didn’t know the tour guide/photographer was involved in the tree climbing expedition. TJ Watt works for Ancient Forest Alliance, and the tree climb with Expedition Old Growth was a fundraiser for AFA.
I booked that trip to preoccupy myself well my daughter was away at her father’s for the longest to date- 7 days straight. I needed something to get me out of the house and to have some fun “me” time. What I knew during those few days, was that my life would never be the same. Those trees, those people, were my people. We hung out and talked about trees. I almost couldn’t believe what I’d found. “My people”, in the trees. Siting against, looking up, and in the Firs I also found myself. Sure I’d been a tree hugger and nature lover for a long time. This was different.
Now I bring people to the trees to do what I can to give them even just a taste, or a fraction of what my “Big Tree Trip” did for me. A purpose. A Belonging.
I believe that things happen when they are meant to happen. I was supposed to see the Red creek Fir for the first time with my 5 year old daughter, and 73 year old father. My chevy aveo broke down so I needed a new, more suitable vehicle to get me there. I had to let go of a life that did not serve me, and to allow my daughter to be apart from me for longer than I was comfortable for, to give me the time to explore new things.
Things happen in their own time. In the forest and in the trees I call this “Tree Time”.
I’ve been asked how long I sat against or in a tree. I don’t know the answer. It’s tree time. A few minutes? 20 minutes? An hour?
A 500-1000+ year old tree doesn’t keep time. It’s there, living and alive. That’s what’s important.
Making sure they stay there is what is important.
Meet them, visit them, learn form them, and take care of them.
And they will take care of you.