Experiencing an Ancient Forest in BC

On Day 46 – Wednesday, June 8th – we stopped to see BC’s newest Provincial Park, an ancient forest east of Prince George that volunteers have put 14,000 hours into developing. Walking all the trails that have been built among the massive cedars was a powerful experience.

This was a fairly long day – 400 km (250 mi) from our overnight spot at the Freson Bros. grocery store in Hinton to Purden Lakes Provincial Park. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

We got away from Hinton just after 09:00, heading west on Highway 16 under skies that were far friendlier than had been forecast.

Highway 16 west of Hinton, Alberta
We’d be re-tracing our route for the 80 km to Jasper before continuing on into new country. Three bridges east of Jasper are being rebuilt, but delays were minor. Two vans full of Asian tourists apparently thought that the delays were too long, though, screaming by us on a double solid in a construction area – a few minutes later, we passed them as they were getting out at a photo stop. Idiots.

Bridge rebuild on Hwy 16 east of Jasper
The weather stayed good enough to make a stop at Mount Robson Provincial Park. Mount Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 meters (12,972 feet).

Mount Robson, BC
Mount Robson has very special memories for Cathy, who spent a few days hiking to and on the mountain about 25 years ago.

Cathy and Bella at Mount Robson, BC
The small interpretive centre on the lower floor of the visitor centre is very good, but few people go down to see it. The history of tourism on the mountain is very interesting.

Interpretive centre at Mount Robson, BC
We’ve seen very few traffic accidents during the trip. This one just west of Mount Robson was an odd one – a semi had gone into the Mount Terry Fox Provincial Park rest area at high speed, lost control, took out three lights, jack-knifed and crossed the highway where he flipped into the ditch. Thank heaven nobody else was involved – or so it seemed from the type of equipment and traffic control being used in the cleanup.

Semi crash on Hwy 16 at Mount Terry Fox Provincial Park rest area
I had read a few weeks ago about the creation of a new provincial park at The Ancient Forest, and it was on my must-see list for the trip. We reached the site just before 3:00 pm, and were surprised to see no signs about it being a park, and by the overgrown picnic area in particular. The steep parking lot wasn’t very rig friendly, but I decided to park on the side of the short access road down by the highway where it’s level, and have a look at what’s there.

Overgrown picnic area at The Ancient Forest, BC
This is the entrance to the forest that’s been developed by the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society of Prince George. The Ancient Forest is part of the Interior Cedar Hemlock forest, the only known inland temperate rainforest in the world.

The Ancient Forest, BC
The first Ancient Forest Interpretive Trail was officially opened on June 4, 2006, and there is now a circuit with a couple of branches, most of it on boardwalks.

The Ancient Forest, BC
Many of the western red cedar here are over 1,000 years old. To get this one in a photo I had to create a panorama with two 18mm verticals. There are many interpretive signs along the trail system.

The Ancient Forest, BC
The beauty and the power of this forest is breathtaking. When I lived in the Fraser Valley 30 years ago, I knew where to find old-growth forests like this, and spent a fair bit of time in them, in places like the lower Carmanah (years before it became a park in 1990), Stein, and Chilliwack River valleys. To once again walk among the ancient ones was a very moving experience.

The Ancient Forest, BC
This story of the saving of this forest goes back to 1990, but it got critical in 2005 when, as Block 486, a license was issued to log it. The paint from the timber cruising done then is still visible on some trees.

The Ancient Forest, BC

Boardwalk in The Ancient Forest, BC

Boardwalk in The Ancient Forest, BC
Here, the boardwalk goes around a fallen giant.

Boardwalk in The Ancient Forest, BC
A side trail leads to…

Waterfall trail in The Ancient Forest, BC
… a waterfall, Treebeard Falls, 34 meters high.

Waterfall in The Ancient Forest, BC
I’ve seen a lot of this “gold dust” on old trees, but didn’t know until reading a sign in The Ancient Forest that it’s Gold Dust lichen, a delicate species that’s unique to old-growth forests and only found in abundance on trees over 250 years old.

Gold Dust lichen in The Ancient Forest, BC
Protection has been put in place for many trees that have been damaged by people climbing on them. Much of the bark has been torn off the lower part of this tree. Some people just don’t think, even when they come to a place like this.

The Ancient Forest, BC
A great deal of thought has been put into signage, which includes this one: “Look Up At The Cedar Circle In The Sky”.

Look Up At The Cedar Circle In The Sky at The Ancient Forest, BC
And yes, I probably wouldn’t have looked directly up to see it without the sign’s help.

The Cedar Circle In The Sky at The Ancient Forest, BC
Me at “the Big Tree”, which is apparently almost 16 feet in diameter.

The Big Tree in The Ancient Forest, BC
The side trail to The Big Tree goes under another fallen giant – head clearance is almost 6 feet.

The Ancient Forest, BC
The boardwalk-builders had some fun, here putting it tightly between two trees.

Boardwalk in The Ancient Forest, BC
Cedars sometimes grow in circles of 3 to 5 trees. It’s not known why, though some speculate that a tree starting life in a shady spot will grow laterally in search of light, and can sometimes touch the ground and root itself.

A cedar circle in The Ancient Forest, BC
Walking back to the motorhome after spending an hour and a half at The Ancient Forest. Cathy walked the 500-meter universally accessible boardwalk, and I walked the full circuit and side trails with the exception of the Driscoll Ridge trail, which is 15 km long. All in all, an exceptional stop that I’m sure will remain one of the highlights of the trip.

Just after 5:00 pm, we reached Purden Lake Provincial Park, and were soon set up for the night on a very nice site.

Purden Lake Provincial Park
The flat light didn’t do justice to Purden Lake, which I expect is beautiful on a sunny day. That night, we had another extremely violent lightning storm, though we didn’t see much because we were in a dense forest.

After some discussion about the route home, we decided that historic Fort St. James would be our destination for Thursday.


Experiencing an Ancient Forest in BC — 8 Comments

  1. These trees are magnificent , Mother Nature has specific rules reasons sometimes unknown I’ve always planted in odd numbers she must have taught me that 🙂

  2. Shame that the light was so bad for the Mt Robson photos…that is a truly spectacular view!

    Big old tree groves have a wonderful feel to them, re the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite NP in California…you would get goose pimples I am sure!

    (I would trust you to make the right call if you had your fingers on the button of the RPG ((re the out of control obnoxious and dangerous tourists driving over the double yellow…))

    • I just wanted flashing lights hidden in the grille and a badge to back it up – morons 🙁

      Haven’t seen the Mariposa Grove yet, but I’ll drive a long way for ancient trees.

  3. Among earths oldest and largest organisms, the Giant Sequoia will bring your consciousness to a new level, I am sure (heck, I was born in CA, grew up outside YNP, so it’s almost in my blood. But they are spectacular and breathtaking in a way that other groves and giant redwoods are not. Off season is best, unless you are prepared for ill mannered tourists (sadly).

    • Off season is much more our style. I’ve already had a belly full of ill mannered and just plain ignorant tourists. The stories from Yellowstone already this year are bloody appalling 🙁

  4. Hi There
    Me again, can you send me an email with a rough outline of how you put your blog together.
    I want to emulate this on our cross country trip.
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    • Hi Jake,

      I’m still not really sure what you mean by “how you put your blog together”. It’s basically WordPress software that runs on my server, and that I’ve customized with one of the tens of thousands of templates available (this is “Weaver II”). Getting found by Google is a different story. Many books have been written about it, but everybody is just guessing. Two aspects that are clear, though, are longevity (I’ve been doing this since 1997), and putting out regular, fresh content, that people share on social media (I have about 5,300 pages and over 600 blog posts). Having quality Web sites link to you is also significant, and Google caught on to buying such links many years ago. Having a meaningful domain is also part of the equation – ie ExploreNorth.com rather than freeblog.wordpress.com

      I’m in a dream situation with Google now, with new content often showing up well in search results within 15 minutes of me posting it. The latest blog post, posted 20 hours ago, is #6 for “glacier highway stewart” and #7 for “bc’s glacier highway”.

      I’m always happy to share what I know if you have specific questions about the process.