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Just Another Day

Avatar Grove - Home of Canada's Gnarliest Tree

After a two-year campaign spearheaded by the Ancient Forest Alliance and backed by thousands of petitioners, a small patch of forest affectionately referred to as "Avatar Grove" near Port Renfrew, British Columbia, was declared off-limits to logging through a new Old-Growth Management Area.  After hearing and reading much about this forest and its star attraction, Canada's Gnarliest Tree, it was time to check it out.

By following the directions to Avatar Grove, you head towards Port Renfrew and beyond, where you can see evidence of clear-cutting from the road.  It's very sad to see mass swaths of forest habitat devastated by mankind, and as you walk through protected areas like Avatar Grove, your appreciation for nature and its power to renew itself provides a small sense of optimism that those destroyed areas will once again rise to a great mass of biodiversity over the next few centuries.

Nevertheless, on to cherish a small victory against the all-mighty forestry industry.

Avatar Grove is split into an upper and lower grove by a logging road. While some may rush on over to the Upper Grove to see Canada's Gnarliest Tree, a walk through the Lower Grove can be just, if not, more rewarding, as giant Douglas Firs and Red Cedars tower over you as you make you make your way to a babbling steam and waterfall.

This isn't a nice afternoon walk with grandma as some may say!  Unless it's one of my grandma's you're talking about! Between the relative steep slope near the start of both hiking paths to the muddy and slippery sections, caution should be taken on the makeshift trails and proper footwear is highly recommended. If you're on the adventurous side, don't make the same mistake I made in wearing a decent pair of jeans either!  But enough about that.  This forest is remarkable!

There are plenty of examples of lush old-growth rainforest here, including many very interesting red cedars with plenty of twists and contorted burls.  Pay close attention to the lush vegetation of the understorey, and how trees are growing on top of other trees. Very cool stuff if you ask me.

While there is no formal path in Avatar Grove, a path has slowly worn its way along the forest floor. This can be a good thing for humans but a potentially bad omen for these beloved trees. Sure, they may have been saved from the chainsaws of the logging industry but now they may face a slow and arduous death, in the face of erosion caused by the eager visitors to get a very close look of these magnificent trees.  Hikers trampling near the base of trees for a great photo op have revealed roots that were once underground. While a couple of footsteps may not seem like much, multiple those intrusions by the hundreds over just a couple of years in the wet conditions of the rainforest, and significant amounts of soil around some of these trees slowly stray further away from their original location.  I'm usually not a fan of boardwalks in areas of ecological importance as I have seen them ruin the ambiance and turned them into tourist traps but while I walked through Avatar Grove, it became readily apparent that the status quo can not continue over the long run, especially as word of Avatar Grove's beauty becomes known to the mainstream public.

Is it worth potentially endangering the longevity of these few jewels to raise awareness of old-growth rainforests and hopefully, protection of other old-growth areas from logging? Perhaps the greater good trumps but maybe we should try to make Avatar Grove an example of a sustainable paradise where hikers and nature can co-exist with as little damage as possible to the trees and ecosystem this initiative has helped protect. Please keep this in mind when visiting the Grove as I too had great ideas as to the types of photographs I thought I'd take of myself with the trees but looking at the current state of the base of many of these trees, I chose not to take part as many have apparently done so in the past. Hopefully, you will try to thread carefully as well.

It should come as little surprise that the threat of erosion might be greatest near Canada's Gnarliest Tree in the Upper Grove.  In addition to all the foot traffic, natural erosion appears to occurring nearby as well.

It just happened that upon logging into my computer back home that evening, I received an e-mail from the Ancient Forest Alliance with news of their latest initiative of raising funds to build an official boardwalk and trail to protect the Avatar’s Grove ecological integrity and visitor safety.  Looks like great minds think alike! Hopefully, the boardwalk plans are fairly basic so this incredible setting isn't ruined by heavy-duty boardwalks found in other rainforests along the coast.

Anyways, you probably arrived here to see photos of Canada's Gnarliest Tree so here it is ...

Many photos online show the tree from a front angle, either straight on or a bit from the side (like above) so here are a few from the back side, just in case you were curious...

Somewhat surprisingly, the tree has been hollowed out over time on its back side...

Once again, my photographs fail to capture the beauty and splendour of this special place.  It truly is a remarkable forest and definitely worth preserving. I will certainly be coming back to Avatar Grove and the surrounding area to explore it in even greater detail.

--- August 2012 Update ---

A couple of videos from my recent visit to Avatar Grove:

Apologies about the dark videos. It seems as though the conversion to YouTube's video format darkened the video big time. You'll just have to visit Avatar Grove yourself!


Hey dude, why's the moon so bright tonight?

Well dude, a supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, and there just happens to be a supermoon tonight.

Missing E

Despite all the time that has passed, you are still very much missed.

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