📍Unceded Pacheedaht Territory, Turtle Island
This is the panoramic view of the Reid Creek Watershed from my perch on the eastern slopes of Edinburgh Mountain. This was the way I said goodbye to Reid Creek, the home of Waterfall Camp, a frontline on the Fairy Creek Blockade that Des and I called home for a few weeks this summer. Poor Reid Creek, once blanketed in ancient forest from ridge to valley bottom, has now been largely clearcut and converted into dense Cedar Fir plantations. Waterfall Camp (located in the approximate middle of this shot where there is a small area of old growth visible in the valley bottom) protects the Ridge that connects Reid and Fairy Creek, where Teal Jones has approval to build roads into Fairy Creek's intact headwaters. As well as protecting a small remnant 3.4 ha approved cutblock of ancient forest within Reid Creek's watershed. By holding waterfall camp, we are also preventing the company from conducting further surveys to flag areas they will propose to cut down in the future. One such area is a proposed cutblock directly adjacent to the well known "waterfall bridge" that has been a strategic centerpoint in the struggle between the Fairy Creek Forest Defenders and the RCMP since enforcement began. From our little home on the road at waterfall camp, my friends and I got to stare at Edinburgh Mountain looming high above the police cars and crime tape on the road in front of us. the sight of the mountain inspired me just as much there as it had when I first laid eyes on it when I walked to visit Eden Grove in August of 2020. So naturally when I left Waterfall Camp via the Braden Main logging road, I felt compelled to take some time to walk up Edinburgh to see what wonders the ancient landscape would reveal.
I walked from Waterfall camp, with my friends Kristina and Theo, a couple kilometres down the Braden Creek watershed/ logging road, then turned onto a side road that would take us across Braden Creek. We spent the night on Braden's rocky creek bank, listening to the flowing water, quenching our thirst by lapping up her crystal clear water in our hands. Drinking directly from cold mountain streams is one of the greatest joys of life that one is privy to when in the bush in Pacheedaht lands. We spent the next morning enjoying the spectacular thin strip of old growth Red Cedar, Hemlock and Douglas Fir that was spared from the axe along Braden Creek.
After exploring the beautiful Braden Creek for a bit, I moved away from the water and left my friends to hike up Edinburgh Mountain a ways, I looked for the path of least resistance, which manifested as a dried up creek bed that snaked its way through the clearcut lower slopes I found myself on. This route turned out to be quite steep and treacherous, mountains have a way of looking much less steep and more climable when examined from afar, but the truth of being on the mountain side is often much more harrowing/challenging than previously conceptualized. Nonetheless, I had gotten quite used to the steep hikes this area demands of you while defending the threatened old growth. So I pushed on and the higher I got in this steep cutblock the higher my emotional state climbed too, at once devastated by the destruction visible across the valleys, and simultaneously amazed by the beauty that these mountains still exude!
British Columbia IS a deforestation crisis, the settlement of these lands by Europeans is inseparable from a long history of destructive logging, that fed the British, French, and their Canadian and American descendants imperial ambitions. After the great pine and broadleaf forests of Northeastern North America were depleted and destroyed, the logging barons migrated west and south, to continue their old growth logging. This history has led up to today, where only 2.7 % of BC's "big tree" valley bottom old growth rainforests remain, and old growth logging continues despite promises from John Horgan's NDP to bring sweeping changes and protections for BC's ancient forests.
The layers of beauty and destruction in Southern Vancouver Islands mountains are moving and heartbreaking, may we use that heartbreak as inspiration to keep resisting the extractive colonial state and the corporations that seek to destroy these lands. come to these forests yourself and you'll experience feeling in your heart that protecting them is the only way forward, and that destroying ancient landscapes is a crime against the universe!
At long last I reached my goal, and entered from the sunny scorching clearcut into the ancient forest I had admired from Waterfall Camp for so long. you never know what you will encounter when you come into a pathless intact forest! I mean, you know there will be trees, but each forest has their own unique character, like communities of people, communities of trees, animals and other species come together in a myriad of ways, shapes, sizes to form the forest. These forests on Edinburgh Mountain were no exception, the rugged terrain was fun and difficult to move through. The Red Cedar trees were ancient and spectacular, and the way the sun and wind danced through the canopy added to the feeling that I had just entered heaven on earth. I felt relieved and grateful to be in the safety of the forest, as the walk up the cutblock felt perilous and stressful to do alone. I thanked the forest for receiving me and walked mindfully to soak up the energy of the place.
Breathing the air in this temple of a forest, my being felt so refreshed. These coastal temperate rainforests have some of the cleanest air anywhere on earth, as the fresh ocean breeze flows in, it is further purified and cooled by the ancient oxygen producing conifers, who release airborne compounds that have been shown to have positive effects on human's immune systems, mental states, and the bodies stress response. It is true that these forests are deeply calming and healing places to be, spiritually and also physiologically. I think all beings deserve to experience the intact earth, drink directly from clean rivers and streams, breathe the crisp fragrant air, and eat the "superfoods" and medicines the forests of earth offer so generously. Many people on earth, even many British Columbians, have never been to an ancient forest, so I feel very blessed to have spent numerous days and nights now adventuring through, meditating in and defending the rainforest. And I want to especially thank Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones for his deep invitation to come walk through his homeland and defend it's last intact corners. At Fairy Creek, we really look up to Bill, we love him and appreciate his wisdom. It is a joy to listen to him speak about his lived experiences and his culture, as it is to listen to all of our indigenous brothers and sisters who have lived gently and harmoniously on these lands for so many thousands of years.
Above, the ancient forest is deeply alive, totally interconnected, constantly transforming over thousands of years. Polypore Conk mushrooms grow on standing dead trees, offering some of the most powerful and sacred medicine in the world in abundance. Below, Slash fills the dried up creek beds where ancient Cedars and Hemlocks once stood. By clearcut logging the rainforest, we are losing earth's greatest carbon capturing, oxygen and medicine producing landscapes. And the First Nation's who truly love these lands are losing the forests they belong to, that are the pillars of their culture, identity, food systems, communities and health. Truly we all belong to Earth, to ancient forests and healthy rivers, to think they belong to us or that our lives and theirs are not totally connected, are the delusions that have enabled such terrible and ignorant destruction. May we all wake up to the wondrous reality that is the ancient forest, who is asking us to stop, come home, learn to listen and live in love.
After my beautiful morning on Edinburgh Mountain, I descended back to my friends by way of bushwhacking through dense second growth plantations and clearcuts. And embarked on the long trek back to the San Juan River Valley, where the support and company of our dear friends awaited us. Edinburgh Mountain is a mystical place, gravely threatened by clearcut logging. I am deeply in love with Edinburgh's ancient landscapes, the beautiful river's and creeks that flow from and surround her, and the massive Cedars, Firs and Hemlocks that blanket her slopes. I will return yet again to continue documenting and immersing myself in Edinburgh Mountains threatened forests, in hopes that generating more awareness of their incredible beauty and sacred value may help this land become fully protected!!
Check back in soon to see my Reid Creek's last stand photo series, and to hear some of our stories of defending Fairy Creek at Waterfall Camp from Teal Jones and their henchmen the RCMP!!!