An Island Adventure
I’m unsure if you’re new around here or not, but I am a big fan of sending my son to Grandma’s house at least once a month for minimum two days. Not only for the reasons listed in another blog post, but for the adventure I get to have with my mom when I come pick up my son. After a several days away, I am itching to get outdoors into nature with him again, and I love stopping for a visit with my mom. Did I mention the wonderful welcome I get when I walk off the ferry and am greeted by my Gregor-Bean?
I wanted to share with you a Vancouver Island adventure to Cathedral Grove that we went on with my mom July 2016. It was part of a day trip to Port Alberni’s Hole in the Wall, which was also a great destination to check out. Highly recommend if you’re already that far up the highway.
Cathedral Grove is part of MacMillans Provincal Park. Yeah, it’s part of BC parks so it is very well maintained and has staff attending a kiosk at the parking lot. Driving TO Port Alberni on the Alberni Highway, you’ll find parking and walking trails on both sides of the road, however the biggest trees are on the drivers side. My moms has walked the right trails and said they were enjoyable, but today’s adventure is to the tallest and oldest trees.
Cathedral Grove is famous for it’s very old, very tall trees. How old are they? About 800 years. How tall are they? 76 meters, and 9 meters around. That is huge. Like, the photos can’t even begin to show you how magnificent these trees are. It’s humbling walking around these old giants. ‘The Big Tree’ is so big and old that it was already OVER 300 years old in 1492. I was born in 1992. Think about it.
First Nations History
Being First Nations, I love it when I can find something, anything, that can teach me about my culture. Here in Cathedral Grove you can find evidence of old ceremonies by looking to the tree bark. Red Cedar is used in many ceremony and medicines, and is harvested in long strips up the tree. There are trees that have been culturally modified dating back to 1137AD. Again, I was born over 800 years later… these trees are ancient. I was walking where the ancestors walked, enjoying their forest, appreciating their trees. It was truly magical.
This is a tourist attraction, and it gets busy. I got frustrated at one point, as some people seem to forget that others want to enjoy the path and take a few photos too. I mean, I am a patient person, but I don’t want to wait 20 minutes for you to finish up when I will take 2 minutes to get my business done. It gets very crowded on sunny days and not only is parking difficult, but the paths can get crowded. Go early, be prepared to wait, and have at least one other person with you to block people from ruining your photo that takes a few seconds to capture. You’ll need to tag team to get some good ones.
Along the trail you’ll come to a riverbed, it was not covered with water in the summer, so it looked like a rock clearing. Everyone was gathering in here to get a break from the overcrowded trails. Adults, children, elderly, dogs… everyone took a break. It’s nice and open, but again, quickly crowded. Along one area there is a large log that lays on it’s side, braced a foot or so off the ground. Great for photos, great for climbing on.
A Space of our Own
I want to let you in on a little secret getaway we found where Momma Bear, Gregory and I got to enjoy Cathedral Grove to ourselves without anyone else around. Climb over/under that log in the riverbed (if there is no water) and walk along the rocks away from the crowds. Simple as that. No one followed us, unwilling to crawl on their hands and knees under the fallen tree I assume. But we had time to ourselves and really got to enjoy nature here.
Walking along the rocks you are brought to more fallen trees that are huge and you can walk across, and a pool of water, then past the second log you’ll come across moving water. This is the river that rushes through the riverbed everyone is walking on, only during the winter. I assume. All assumptions here, but I am fairly positive you won’t be able to walk down to this ‘space of our own’ in the winter.
The river was quick, and had what looked like rapids and larger pools of water along it’s path. My mom climbed out one log suspended over the river, and I crossed a small body in hopes to look further around the bed to identify what animal was sitting on the riverbank. FYI: It was a tree stump. A really cool shaped tree stump. Also, we found a little frog to chase, scream at, and try to kiss to turn into a prince.
The Little Moments
You know, these little moments with my Momma Bear and Gregory mean so much to me. Watching them interact together, making memories… I am so glad I get to document these adventures for us. For me, my mom, and for Gregory to remember his Grandma when they’re both grown and old. Taking a moment to step away from the crowds provided me with the special memories I wanted from Cathedral Grove. The big, old trees and easy trail we could all walk was nice. But a few precious moments that only we get to have that is different from all those other strangers walking beside us, that’s what makes our trip so special.
Another special moment? How about when Gregory climbed over the fence. All on his own. It’s okay! We were right by the big tree and he wasn’t climbing into a protected area, it was more so to prevent any injuries from climbing the nurse log and having it fall apart. He climbed over and walked along the fence line back around to climb over again. It was a new skill for me to see, I’m unsure if I should be proud, or terrified he can escape now.
And now, for the best part of any travel post, the photos. I took, literally, hundreds of photos on my phone. Say it with me, DSLR, it’ll happen. These were my most favourite, least blurry of the bunch. My mom likes to make fun of me and say I spend the day looking at the world through my camera. And she may be right. I DO need to live more in the now, but I also love preserving my memories. Photos jog my memory in my very cluttered and quickly paced brain. I love them.
Before You Go
I hope you enjoyed coming on this adventure to Cathedral Grove. If you’re headed to Port Alberni, definitely pull over and take half an hour to walk through. It’s an easy trail, elderly and strollers welcome. Come on, you’re driving right through it anyways. If you walk the riverbed makes sure you are being safe, otherwise stick to the trails designated by the Park. And careful crossing the highway at the parking lot. It is dangerous, even though everyone knows there are people stopping and crossing. It’s still a highway.
If you’re looking for another adventure to go on while you’re on Vanvoucer Island, check out the Wacky Woods in Fanny Bay. It’s a delightful walk through a forest filled with art that’ll make you stop and think, family friendly. And don’t forget to stop in Coombs to check out the famous Goats in the Roof and eat some yummy ice cream. I’ll always be an island girl, come to my home and explore it.