Road Trip: Return to Cathedral Grove

Last week we travelled to Vancouver Island to visit friends and relatives. It was a highly anticipated road trip. I would be delivering a print of my Great Blue Heron and signing and hanging another, Sunset Majesty,  as well as getting out with my camera.

On the way, while traveling on the B.C. Ferry  from Tsawwassen to Duke Point I started this article. There were many directions it could go. But I could not come up with any coherent thoughts.

That changed though after an impromptu trip to Cathedral Grove. I hadn’t been there for several years so I  was thrilled to again  be amongst a world renowned preserve of ancient old growth trees.

Located 25km west of Qualicum Beach on Highway #4, MacMillan Provincial Park (Cathedral Grove) was established in 1947. At only 350 hectares it is a rare stand of ancient trees that is easily accessible and where one can observe our natural heritage and an irreplaceable ecosystem that at one  time thrived all along the British Columbia coast.

News broadcasts in mid January this year reported that severe windstorms had destroyed a significant number of the park’s cherished old growth trees. I was anxious to see and understand what had happened.

In total, just under 200 trees were broken or felled by the winds. Fortunately, the oldest trees survived. Experts believe that this forest is coming to the end of its life cycle, about 800 years and that the damage is consistent with the age and  condition of the trees.

Boardwalks and split log fencing guide visitors past the Ancients while protecting the park’s integrity. A thick canopy of branches filtered sunlight and protected the forest floor. Fallen trees  slowly but surely are  decomposing. New growth springs from the rich forest soil. It is such an interesting environment where the largest of trees,  the smallest fungi and everything in between seem to thrive.

As I slowly walked between these giants I wondered what peoples lived and walked here so  many decades ago. It’s almost a mystical place. The collection of images I made include the new and the ancient. To me this is a place to be revered and protected as should other locations where Old Growth trees still thrive.


This entry was posted in My Work.


  1. corolp October 6, 2019 at 8:00 am #

    Cathedral Grove is a must stop place whenever we drive that highway. It is, indeed, mystical. There is a magical quietude of silent history. Your photos capture the essence, Stu.

  2. Stu Dale October 6, 2019 at 10:15 am #

    Thanks Corol! Cathedral Grove is a wonderful place as are other ancient forests on the coast like Avitar Grove near Port Renfrew.

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