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Meares Island Tribal Park: Walking Among Giants

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

Ancient Coastal Rainforest on the Big Tree Trail.

📍 Unceded Ahousaht & Tla-o-qui-aht territory

Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island, Canada

Clayoquot Sound's ancient rainforests burst with life; a harmonious dance of ocean and forested islands define this land, renowned for its awe-inspiring natural beauty. We had long felt drawn to come and witness Clayoquot's wonders with our own eyes. During the now infamous logging protests of 1993, the Tlaoquiaht people reasserted their inherent right to protect their traditional lands by establishing a series of tribal parks, the first of their kind in Canada, cementing the preservation of this pristine and enchanting ecosystem, and setting the foundation for an emerging ecotourism based economy, inviting others to come and witness the old growth forests, and pristine waters teeming with otters and whales themselves. Clayoquot Sound is a UNESCO biosphere reserve, internationally recognized for its outstanding biodiversity and intact ecosystems. Getting the opportunity to spend time here was a real privilege, Myself, my partner Desiree, and our friend Alagie came here in August of 2020, this was our first stop on our Vancouver Island trip. And the first place we had our hearts set on visiting when we arrived in Tofino, was the Big Tree Trail on nearby Meares Island. We got to Meares early in the morning, having secured our passage with a local ferryman the day before, so we had a full day to explore the beautiful island. On the boat ride over, a family of otters lying on their backs in one of Meares' calm inlets welcomed us to this pristine ecosystem. One can walk the loop trail in under 2 hours, but we took it at our leisure, soaking up every ancient cedar and spruce with open eyes. Walking mindfully let us deeply experience the ancient landscape, and the slower we walked, the more the forest revealed.

The views from the Meares island's rocky forested shores. The clean calm ocean, the surrounding islands and their lush green mountains, and the distant views of Vancouver Islands towering peaks were awe inspiring. Clayoquot Sound is truly one of the great wild landscapes left on earth.

Parts of the islands' shoreline are composed of beautiful tidal meadows where salt tolerant grasses thrive... The forests on Meares Island and throughout Clayoquot Sound are often shrouded in mystical fog that rolls through the trees, making you feel like you live inside of a cloud.

Des and Alagie touching one of Meares island's monumental Western Red Cedars. Spending time with a mother tree like this, that has grown in this forest for millennia, fills you with awe and reverence for nature.

Every moment in the old growth forest is full of magic. Look at the way the sunlight filters through the canopy, hitting the tree trunks, casting shadows across the forest floor. Once you slow down and come home to the present moment, all of this beauty is there for you. Immerse yourself in nature to transform your suffering. The forest heals and nourishes the soul.

Before being picked up at the trailhead by our friendly ferryman, Des and I took one more walk into the forest, finding a comfortable sitting log to rest on and immerse ourselves in the smells, sounds, and sights of this divine place. After sitting in silence, a pine marten ran across a nearby log before stopping at our feet. He stared curiously and sized us up. The marten’s slender, agile body evolved to climb and run through this dense temperate jungle to hunt for food. They are known to be voracious predators, hunting other animals as small or even larger than themselves. After a moment that felt like a minute, the marten turned and ran off into the trees. It was a beautiful encounter to wrap up this magical day on Meares. The sun had begun to set, and our ride back to Tofino would arrive shortly, so we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from the quiet grove of ancient Sitka Spruce to complete the short hike back to the dock.

The Hanging Garden Cedar on the Big Tree Trail, this gnarled old tree is known for the diversity of ferns, mosses and hemlock saplings that grow on its trunk and lower canopy. These organisms growing above the ground of the forest floor are classified as Epiphytes. In the ancient forest, the dense understory vegetation creates competition between plants for light and space. Epiphytes are able to take advantage of their elevated position off the forest floor to photosynthesize and survive. On the boughs and in the crevices of these ancient cedars, thin layers of soil form over time as layers of moss decompose, allowing small western hemlocks, ferns, and bushes like Huckleberry and Salal to grow. This tree is believed to be well over 1000 years old.

This is not a cave. Rather it is the

underside of a fallen tree that the trail passes under. Scenes like this are not uncommon in Meares Island's ancient forest.

There are many small rainforest creeks, some little more than a trickle, that pass underneath living and fallen ancient trees, emerging from a bundle of roots, winding through the landscape, sometimes above ground, sometimes below. The ways that water flow through this forest are as diverse as they are beautiful, indeed this forest is defined by rainfall, fog and oceanic conditions.

Alagie and Des pass under another fallen giant, with a diverse carpet of new life growing on top of its fallen trunk. Nurse logs are one of the defining features of this ancient forest.

The scenic natural beauty of Meares, its close proximity to Tofino, and its intact biodiversity, make it one of the best places in British Columbia to view old growth forests and monumental Sitka Spruce and Red Cedar trees. We hope to return to continue to explore the Islands wonders soon.

To view our full Meares Island Photo Series click HERE

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