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Back from Vancouver Island and visit of the Giants.

Emotional trip to Vancouver Island between August 11 and 18, 2021

SYLLAD returns from a trip to the land of giants in the forests of Vancouver Island.

Everything went well, 4 x 4 car necessary for our travels, friend who lends us the camping equipment to shelter for a week (left more than half of the things offered because does not fit in the small car at side of the photo equipment! generous the girlfriend!).

This trip was initiated because we have had a strong bias for trees for a long time and it has even become the main figure in our approach. For my part, I SYL, having lived on Vancouver Island for more than 10 years, I am very attached to it and part of my family still lives there and I am coming back. This time, I came back to it differently.

In the spring, we heard the work of a few ecologists and protectors of ancient forests. We wanted to meet them, see them, these trees which are part of the 2% of the giants still standing. LAD therefore contacted TJ Watts, a photographer who, not wanting to be reduced to taking photos of the destruction, created an ecotourism company to shed light on these giants still standing. A positive way to talk about a just cause and to invite people to see the greatness of these specimens and their environment and contribute to the awareness of the values ​​of these witnesses.

Since the purpose of the journey was to meet the trees, the paths taken were forest paths far from the towns or tourist centers generally visited. An exception to the rule, a visit to Cathedral Grove Provincial Park initiated by forester MacMillan in the 1940s when the industry was flourishing and the desire to ease their conscience by protecting 300 hectares. One can imagine what is missing. The park, associated with the Mount Aerosmith Biosphere Reserve, is home to ancient Douglas fir trees some over 800 years old and 9 meters in circumference while they climb into the sky 50 meters. There are also other softwoods such as California redcedar, western hemlock, Vancouver fir, some Sitka spruce and some hardwoods such as bigleaf maple. This summer, however, these trees suffered from drought, as did all the other forests in the province, where the temperature experienced record heat and amounts of forest fires in the province.

Our end-of-day visit to the park gave us good light, but not the best conditions for photographing these subjects given the public circulating there, so we went back there at daybreak the next day.

At 5am, we left our comfortable sleeping bags to join the light awakening on these big giants. This is what allowed us to have a privileged relationship with them since we had the opportunity to install the lighting, the tripods finally, all the hardware to try to capture their grandeur. Unforgettable moments in this sanctuary.

The rest of the journey took place in the gravel roads of the forests and their checkpoints, the indigenous reserves and the temporary tents of resistance of the opponents to the cutting of these forests. An unexpected meeting, facilitated access to these groups because my friend David Merner, coming to drive his daughter to the West Coast Trail, found himself in front of us by chance in Port Renfrew. Lawyer and active member of the Green Party for years, he offers his support to activists. Explaining our artistic project, Transhumance, we were introduced to the base camp of these resistance fighters and three women agreed to participate. So I made three small sculptures, Raciel, from branches found on the spot and, in the early morning, I wove them. At 8 a.m., we were ready to record their testimonies and make a portrait of each in front of the tree of their choice with Raciel in their hands, which we offered them.

A remarkable trip that filled us and shook us at the same time. We come back with, in our suitcases, in our hearts and in our minds, all the people who were kind enough to share with us, what the forest and the trees gave us, gratitude!

To read: The Golden Tree: Life and Death of a Canadian Giant by John Vaillant, 2006

For the people who want to better understand the history and context of the development of the forest industry in the world over the last few centuries, I invite you to read this very good book by John Vaillant. This book tells the mysterious story of the "golden tree" located in the Charlottes Islands cut down in 1997 by a former forester who became an environmental activist. While providing the full context of the offense for which the forester then disappeared, the author draws the whole portrait of the development of the forest industry on the West Coast of the United States and Canada, itself preceded by the deforestation of other continents.

A few points of information on British Columbia, Source: Wikipedia

British Columbia did not begin to be urbanized until the end of the 19th century. Even today most of its territory has retained its wild and virgin character. The climate and the morphology of its landscapes make British Columbia a set of particularly remarkable ecosystems.


460 km long with a maximum width of 80 km, Vancouver Island is the 43rd largest island in the world, the 11th largest island in Canada and the second most populated island in this country after the river island of Montreal. . It is separated from the continent to the east by a succession of straits, from west to east, the Queen Charlotte Strait, the very narrow Johnstone Strait, the Strait of Georgia, a vast body of water which shelters, continental, the city of Vancouver and finally to the south, opening onto the ocean, the Strait of Juan de Fuca which separates the island from the American state of Washington. All of these straits are part of the coastal waters of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, a toponym that designates a maritime space also known as the Inside Passage. The west of the island is open to the Pacific Ocean.

The west coast benefits from exceptional rainfall and is home to an imposing temperate rainforest. On its southwest coast, the West Coast Trail is a 75 km long hiking trail, crossing the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

A British naval base was established at Esquimalt in 1865, and was later given to the Canadians. It is the Pacific Ocean base of the Royal Canadian Navy and its second largest base after Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In 2002, the population was estimated at 750,000 inhabitants, almost half of whom lived in the metropolitan area of ​​Victoria, in the south of the island, which is also a provincial capital. Other notable cities include Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Parksville, Courtenay, and Campbell River.


According to the British Columbia Ministry of Environment's ecosystem classification system, Vancouver Island falls entirely within the Humid Temperate ecodomain and the Humid Maritime and Uplands ecodivision. (Humid Maritime and Highlands). The western and northern parts are included in the “Coast and Mountains” ecoprovince, while the eastern and southern parts are part of the “Georgia Depression” ecoprovince. In terms of bio-geoclimatic zones, most of the island is attached to the Coastal Western Hemlock Zone, the southeastern coastal strip is attached to the Coastal Fir Zone Douglas (Coastal Douglas-fir Zone), the mountainous parts of the island are attached to the Mountain Hemlock Zone (Mountain Hemlock Zone) and the Alpine Tundra Zone (Alpine Tundra Zone). Logging has ravaged the island's primary forest. Over 90% of giant trees over 300 years old have been felled. An emblematic figure of this destruction, a Douglas fir, called Big Lonely Doug, over 1,000 years old and 70 m high, remains alone in the middle of deforested areas in 20163. The drier climate of the Interior Plateau favors lodgepole pine, which is the most common species in the province. Northern British Columbia, with its harsher climate, is covered in forests of spruce, aspen, pine and shrubs. Since the early 2000s, British Columbia has experienced an outbreak of the mountain pine beetle, a beetle whose larvae feed in and under the bark of pine trees, including mountain pine. This infestation is considered by the authorities of the province, as a particularly important problem and several action plans have been implemented to fight against it.

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