After leaving Coombs we drove up the highway to MacMillan Park and Cathedral Grove and Stef, Charli, Chris and I went for a lovely walk through the grove. The reason for the name ‘Cathedral Grove’ becomes immediately obvious only a few minutes into visiting. Soaring towards the sky, these huge trees form their own beautiful cathedral of nature. Fallen trees here and there allow light to streak through the canopy, much as stained glass windows in churches do.
Cathedral Grove features a magnificent temperate rainforest with enormous 800 year-old trees, a carpet of ferns and draping moss, the trees in Cathedral Grove are amongst the oldest and tallest in Canada.Most of the trees are about 250 years old, having emerged after a fire at the time.
It’s a humbling experience to stand next to these incredibly tall and gnarled tree trunks, some as wide as a car. The tree canopy is up to 80 metres high in places, with the sky in the far distance. As you walk through the forest, beams of sunlight filter through the branches above, illuminating so many layers of green. It is a kaleidoscope of green.
This was a temperate Rainforest, one of the most fascinating ecosystems in the world. This was probably the most magnificent of the rainforests that we saw. The temperate rainforests of British Columbia are not just cool places where amazingly large trees reside. They are rich ecosystems where a wide variety of interdependent species occupy the terrain. The creatures vary from fungi, to amphibians, birds, mammals, insects, trees, mosses, lichen and many other creatures and organisms, both macro and micro. The temperate rainforest is a system in which nutrients are recycled to nurture new generations of living things in which each member of the system plays a role in the continuing cycle, of life, death and rebirth.
It is more obvious in a temperate rainforest than in most other places that death is a creative force.Death is a lot more interesting than we ever imagined. Our bodies also harbor death. Death is intimately a part of each and every one of us. Cells are programmed to die. They all have a limited life span. Cells need to die! We need death. This may sound really weird, but we need death. We can’t live without death.
Forests are first class recyclers. They recycle rain. They create prodigious amounts of oxygen. In fact together with oceans they are among the most important creators of oxygen. They absorb so much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that scientists are recently emphasizing that perhaps the best way to save the planet from existentially dangerous climate change is to promote, enhance, and protect forests. They believe there is nothing else that we can do that would be more effective in mitigating climate change.
Forests keep the soil together and in places with steeply sloped mountains and hills like British Columbia are vitally important in controlling the movement of water down the mountains and out to the sea. Forests are also crucially important in purifying water for us to drink or use in agriculture. All in all, forests are critical to life on the planet.
Forests provide great habitat for a wide diversity of species, nowhere more so than rainforests, both temperate, like British Columbia, and tropical as in the Amazon. Some of the trees we saw included Douglas Fir, Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, and others.
Stef and Charli
Cathedral Grove is part of the traditional territory of the K’ómoks, Tseshaht and Te’mexw people, who have acted as stewards of this area for thousands of years. To indigenous people of the area, these trees have even greater spiritual significance. Cedar trees have long been considered sacred due to their life giving properties. That’s why they call cedars the “the tree of life.”
Many people think that the most prolific parts of our biosphere are the tropical rain forests. Though they certainly are prolific this is not true. In some respects at least the coastal temperate rain forests are actually the most prolific.
Temperate rain forests cover a mere 1% of the surface of the earth, but they contain twice as much organic material per acre as the tropical rain forests. I found this amazing. These forests can also produce as much biomass per acre as the tropical rain forest, to say nothing of the amazing fertility of the river mouths and the estuaries.