After Squamish, we headed out to Horseshoe Bay and caught the late afternoon ferry across to Vancouver Island – landing in Nanaimo just as darkness fell.
We stayed just up the coast a little from the town itself, and woke the next morning to see the sea concealed with an inversion lit by blue skies and sunshine above.
We hastily corrected our plans and headed out to Moorecroft Park in Nanoose to make the most of the surreal scenery. Here we walked down to the silent shoreline and watched hawks, vultures and cormorants whilst the mist rolled down the wooded hillside to reach the sea.
We spent the afternoon walking around Protection Island, watching seals in the harbour from the Floating Pub, before heading inland the next day to Cathedral Grove.
Sadly, the main draw of Cathedral Grove is that it is one of the few remaining stands of the old growth forest which is otherwise now largely lost. Here, the largest trees are 800 years old, measuring 9m in circumference and towering to a colossal 75m. This habit is markedly different to the growth patterns of old broadleaf trees in the UK – I recently climbed some 35m high black poplars but this is easily the highest I’ve ever been in the canopies. Our broadleaf trees grow oldest when they are coppiced or pollarded and never reach these heights – for example the Bowthorpe Oak – thought to be over 1000 years old, has a circumference of 13m but stands barely 15m high.
As well as admiring the trees themselves, there were the decorations of bryophytes draped over the branches and hanging down in straggled strands – the most appropriately named being the Witches Hair lichen.
Next stop – heading out to admire the rainforests and the Pacific Ocean in Tofino!