Our recent drive to Port Alberni to spend a few days with Richard’s aunt and uncle involved passing through Cathedral Grove in Vancouver Island’s MacMillan Provincial Park. Though we’ve been there many times before, the towering stands of Douglas fir and Western red cedar never cease to amaze us. Trails on both sides of the highway allow visitors to stand in awe beneath these majestic giants, some more than 800 years old.
The park has changed since I walked its pathways as a child and since we wandered there with our own children some years back. On New Year’s Day 1997, a severe windstorm changed its look forever. Hundreds of huge trees were toppled and now lie amongst the undergrowth and some sections of the trail system were obliterated. Repairs to the trail system began immediately but fallen trees are part of nature. They open the canopy to provide light, space, shelter and nutrients for new growth. As gorgeous as the giant trees are, the lush growth on the forest floor is equally fascinating.
This year, geocaching added a new element to our visit to the park. Though there are several of them there, we decided to look for just two caches; one on each side of the highway. The dense canopy made it difficult for the GPS, which depends on satellite signals from high overhead, to give us accurate readings but hints given on the geocaching website helped us locate them. We had to be stealthy so as not to give away their locations to the many “muggles” (non geocachers) who were also enjoying the park.