Big Lonely Doug

A tribute to Big Lonely Doug, Canada’s second-largest Douglas fir at nearly 70 m high. I had mixed feelings about this visit: on the one hand it was amazing to see such an impressive tree so clearly, and a treat to be able to get a closer look, but to see it standing alone in a huge clearcut was very sobering. 🌲

It occurred to me that celebrating these few remaining big trees is like getting a coupon for money off. Sure, it’s great to think about what you’re saving but look at what you have to spend in order to “save” that.
Lastly to get there requires driving over one of the scariest bridges I’ve ever crossed. The bridge must be 30-40 m above the raging Gordon River, and only has an ankle-high guard rail… 😬

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A tribute to Big Lonely Doug, Canada's second-largest Douglas fir at nearly 70 m high. I had mixed feelings about this visit: on the one hand it was amazing to see such an impressive tree so clearly, and a treat to be able to get a closer look, but to see it standing alone in a huge clearcut was very sobering. 🌲 It occurred to me that celebrating these few remaining big trees is like getting a coupon for money off. Sure, it's great to think about what you're saving but look at what you have to spend in order to "save" that. Lastly to get there requires driving over one of the scariest bridges I've ever crossed. The bridge must be 30-40 m above the raging Gordon River, and only has an ankle-high guard rail… 😬 #biglonelydoug #douglasfir #vancouverisland #portrenfrew #ancientforestalliance #clearcut #oldgrowth #temperaterainforest #beautifulbc #logging #bigtreetuesday

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From the road it’s impossible to judge just how large this tree is. We weren’t sure whether we wanted to risk picking our way through an old clearcut on such a wet day, knowing just what a battle it can be. But we saw other people had made it down to its base, and we decided to try as well. It turned out to be easier than we expected (though we still took a wrong turn and had to find a way over some very slick logs), and within a few minutes we were standing beneath Big Lonely Doug.

It’s well named; both Big and Lonely. And yet it was still hard to appreciate just how tall it was as the lowest branches must be nearly 50 m off the ground. We craned our necks upwards, the rain dotting our glasses and camera lenses, and following the length of the trunk up and down to try and absorb its size.

With mixed feelings we walked back to the car and drove back down the road to the Avatar Grove. As I mentioned above, the road crossed the stunning chasm of the Gordon River, a rugged, wild river if ever there was one! And, okay, maybe I exaggerated about the diminutive height of the guard rails: they actually came up to the middle of my calves….

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Revolutum

A plethora of pink fawn lilies for fawn-lily Friday! So happy to find some as they’re very rare on the mainland. A big thank you to bustapbj for pointing me in the right direction 👍👍

Pink fawn lilies (Erythronium revolutum) are very rare on the mainland: I’ve seen only a single one in Lighthouse Park, a few on the UBC campus, and a handful more at the UBC Botanical Garden. So I was really looking forward to our visit to Vancouver Island, and to the Port Renfrew area in particular, where I’d seen a couple of photos showing pink fawn lilies at the base of a large tree. One of my Instagram friends let me know of another site where I might find them, which we drove past multiple times and every time I couldn’t see where they might be hiding.

But Sombrio Beach had a surprise waiting for me with a small area of pink lilies, some of which – alas – had been trampled carelessly. I picked my way through the tangle of salmonberry to find a nice spot with a few flowers in a photogenic arrangement. If those were all I’d seen I’d have to admit that they would do, I guess, though I was still thinking about trying to find this other spot.

On our last day, as we were driving back to take the ferry home, we drove past the “secret” spot one last time and I decided that it was now or never. Leaving Maria in the car with her book, I ran off in one direction. Nothing. I ran back past the car, saw a short trail disappear into the forest and took it. The environment looked ideal, but the only flowers were trillium (which, of course, I did stop to photograph as well…) and false lily-of-the-valley (which I did not, on account of not seeing a good composition).

Returning to the road, I crossed over and followed a different trail down a small embankment into what I thought would be a scruffy area (if not outright dumping ground as it was next to the road). I could not have been more wrong. Here, in all their glory, was the biggest patch of pink fawn lilies I had ever seen. It was stunning! Knowing we were short of time, I hurriedly snapped a few photos, not really taking the time to find good compositions. I ran back to the car and breathlessly told Maria all about them, and decided we had enough time for me to drive the 100 m back to that spot and show her. It was worth it 🙂

So, many thanks Shane – you were absolutely 100% right!

On a final, completely unrelated note, the “revolutum” part of their name instantly brings to mind the Queensryche album “Operation: Mindcrime” and, in particular, the song “Revolution Calling” which I will forever more think of as “Revolutum Calling”. Which they will do every spring.

Wild flowers, wild life

A combined wildflower-Wednesday and wildlife-Wednesday post: cheery white fawn lilies, waving in the wind, and a sea lion lolling in the waves.

Mid-April is usually a good time to see the white fawn lilies in Lighthouse Park. Being early spring, the weather can be somewhat unpredictable and so I found myself in the park on a blustery grey day, threatening rain. My first port of call was actually to head out of the park and over to Kloochman Park, a 5 minute walk away, where I had been informed I would also find fawn lilies. Sure enough (see the third photo) I found a few; I particularly liked this one in a patch of licorice ferns, and deliberately left the colours on the cool side to emphasize the feeling of the day. I found more lilies out on the bluffs, most of which were already fading and none of which were easy to photograph.

Of more interest, though, were the sea lions playing in the waters between me and the Grebe Islets a few hundred metres or so off shore. Occasionally one or two would swim close to the cliffs below my feet, rolling in the choppy water and diving under the moment they saw me. I readied the camera and waited for their next pass and caught one of them with its head and upper body clearly visible, as in the fourth photo. And yes, I can say that I included the branches of the arbutus tree for interest and scale, as well as to provide a sense of my having to be a little surreptitious in my photography (as all wildlife photographers surely must be!).

As I walked back into Lighthouse Park and down to Point Atkinson, the rain did indeed catch up with me. I pulled up my hood and sought temporary shelter near the washrooms, before shrugging and heading out onto the rocks anyway. The wind blew in strong off the sea, and I found myself alone out on the rocks braving the weather. The Vancouver skyline was invisible. It looked like a passing shower, though, and I stayed put as the rain stopped and the sun (and the city) began to make an appearance. Now with bright sunshine, I could feel justified in heading over to where I knew I would find the best lily display.

When I reached the point, the sun was out in full force, shining with that post-storm intensity. The wind was still blowing hard, and while I now had good light, the flowers were constantly in motion. Still, I put the camera on the tripod and sized up a few compositions. My patience was rewarded with occasional calm moments during which I quickly set my focus and took the photo. Even when not totally calm, there was enough light to keep my shutter speed high enough to stop the worst of the motion. And so I managed to capture the first two photos: the first shows the underside of the flower as it was blown backwards in the wind, while the second is a beautiful trio of perfect flowers with just the right amount of curl to their petals.

Flowers and sea lions makes a pretty good day to me.