Meet the valley's newest trail

View from the top

New Trail!! There’s a new trail in the Walbran! It’s challenging, rugged, but well worth the effort with incredible payoffs throughout the hike. 

Since Teal Jones, the logging company with harvesting rights in the Walbran, announced its proposed cut blocks, the Friends of Carmanah Walbran have wanted a witness trail through all the cut blocks behind the Castle Giant. Witness trails helps create access, letting people experience these forests before they are cut. 

A few years ago, the Wilderness Committee made it into cut block 4424 (the aptly named black diamond grove), but no one had extensively explored the three other cut blocks above the Castle Giant. The grove had many giant trees and let a lot of us of wonder if the other cut blocks were just as equally stocked. 

Excitement reached a fever pitch during the summer of 2018 when Torrance Coste and Alex Smith, on a bushwacking mission around the ‘unexplored’ cut blocks, stumbled up a grove of some of the biggest and most magnificent trees ever seen in the valley. During the following winter and spring, we explored this area and cut a loop trail through all the cut blocks (4410, 4411, 4412), culminating at the “Crown Jewel” of old growth groves. From the grove at the top of the loop, an additional trail was cut up the steep hillside to a clifftop summit with views that extend down the valley to the bridge and beyond to the pacific. A truly spectacular sight. 


DIRECTIONS

From the Castle Giant Tree, walk past the tree, and follow a rough trail along the edge of the gully. After approximately 20m, you’ll see a sign for the witness loop and lookout trails. The trail is marked with white placards so not to be mistaken for logging flagger. Follow either the right or left fork of the the loop trail up the hill. Once at the “Crown Jewel” grove, follow another rough trail behind the tree with a viewing bench up the hill.

* This trail is a rough witness trail. Be prepared for a steep trail that can be difficult to follow.

* This is a VERY challenging hike! Be prepared and give yourself a minimum of 3-4 hours for the round trip.

* USE EXTREME CAUTION TO THE VIEWING ROCK!!!!!!!! It is a very steep dropoff with no protection! Tread very carefully. NOT RECOMMENDED IN THE RAIN!!!!!!!

Check out the Trails Page for a topographic map of the trail.

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Path between Fall and Spring
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Written by Will O’Connell

Photographs by Will and Maia

Fall started with smashing the last old staircase to the upper falls. The thing had a haphazard charm to it, so we’d spared it until one wrong step could flip a nail filled plank your way. The replacement stairs were put in slowly taking care not to trample the surrounding moss and ferns.

On a break from building, Alex showed us the grove of cedars he and Torrance had stumbled onto that summer. It was one of the most spectacular and ancient groves left on the island. If this could exist on the brink of a cut block minutes from the popular castle giant trail, what else could be out there? We decided it was time to get all kinds of intimate with the forests of southern Vancouver Island to find out. 

Measuring the largest tree from the upper grove at 17.13 feet diameter breast height. Flagger for cut block 4411 is within arms reach of the tree.

Starting this exploration project with a small section of the Walbran valley, we set out to walk all the proposed cut blocks thoroughly and all the important groves of the unprotected central Walbran. The process took weeks and most of what we found was wet, head high salal, but also caves, cliff tops, bear dens and beautiful ancient trees slated to be logged. Of note was not just the beauty and lushness of the cut blocks, but also the sheerness of their slope right down to the Walbran river. To help others see this magnificent forest, we decided to cut a witness trail through the beautiful upper blocks to the grove discovered earlier that summer, and then beyond to a clifftop lookout with an incredible view of the pacific. 

Maia in in the block adjacent to the approved but not logged teal Jones cut block 4424.

Maia in in the block adjacent to the approved but not logged teal Jones cut block 4424.

SMZ shown in teal with stitched together blocks outlined.

SMZ shown in teal with stitched together blocks outlined.

The Walbran “bite” (an approximately 400 hectare gap in the provincial park boundary) where the eight proposed cut blocks are contained is part of the Walbran Special Management Zone (SMZ). These SMZs were identified in the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan as areas of significant ecological value and are to be harvested so as to “maintain ecosystem structure and function”. This entails stricter regulations on cut block size and limits how much of the intact old growth can be removed. Thirty years after the creation of the Walbran SMZ, we wanted to explore what this looked like in the forest. 

Some heli-logging seemed impressively low impact, leaving only the occasional pile of branches and a stump in an otherwise intact forest. That was in the minority though, most of our expeditions lead through massive open cut blocks created by stitching together many smaller blocks.

The top half of a relatively small cut block due to SMZ restrictions, placed as a vertical strip running down a draw which feeds the Walbran.

The top half of a relatively small cut block due to SMZ restrictions, placed as a vertical strip running down a draw which feeds the Walbran.

During one of our commutes to the Walbran SMZ, we took a small detour and checked out some of the active cut blocks in Bugaboo pass. The cedars being logged were colossal and stood in a steep gully feeding into the Walbran river. Half of the trees cut went right down to the river, leaving very little to protect this delicate riparian zone. The cut block was also full of bear den trees, no doubt because most of the trees in the area fit to house a bear had already been felled. It was hard discovering this tiny oasis just as it was being destroyed. Again the question arose, what else was there to be seen before it was gone? 

Reeling from this discovery, we took things even closer to the city… or in this case Port Renfrew. Just minutes from the small town, we explored Eden Grove, right next to the legendary Big Lonely Doug. The same conditions which generated the second largest doug fir in Canada, produced a rich forest full of character. Inspired by this wonderful forest, we cut in a “research route” to one of the largest trees in the grove. Measuring over 12m in circumference, this gorgeous cedar sits just minutes from the logging road. Due to some devastating logging nearby, the road to this area has been significantly improved and is now accessible by most vehicles. Trail information to this grove soon should be up soon, but for not just drive past lonely doug until you see a stone cairn next to a giant gnarly fir the trail is marked from there. 


Early in the spring Eric discovered Cedar logging under ten kilometres from the Cheewhat giant, the largest western red cedar in the world. His pictures of the block were striking and he told us it was worth seeing as they are falling it. It was like photos out of a forestry museum.

Spring began with a smashed staircase leading to the upper falls. Some careful bucking and finicky re-piecing before it was back together. After it was walkable we celebrated with a swim, taking care not to trample the lilies.

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Moe Trails
The Coastal Trail Collective is officially launched!
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After years of building, months of chatting, and hundreds of hours of website design, we’re are so, so so excited to officially launch the Coastal Trail Collective.

After long days of hard work in the cold, pouring rain, while sitting in the smoky wall-tent trying to dry off, we’d often talk into the night about why we were building the trails.  We’d often debate for hours on end about the reasons behind our work, and if our trail building stopped with hitting the nail, or if our work needed to continue with advocacy back in the city.  In all our debates, one idea in particular kept coming up; we needed to have a better way of telling people about our work then just hoping people would run into us on the trail mid-december.

Well, after a long time developing and refining our thoughts, we are proud to present to the world the Coastal Trail Collective.

I won’t say too much here about what this website is all about.  Go check it out for yourselves :-).  I will say that this will be your best source for CTC news, trail updates, maps, and trail condition reports.  We also want this platform to be the first step towards being more inclusive.  We want to bring you on one of our trail building trips and we hope this website will get your stoke on!!!!

See you all soon!

Moe Trails
Buzzing with Projects

Originally published on olivierclements.com

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One of our big goals has always been to have a trail that goes through all of the planned cutblocks in the Walbran Valley.  While the current trail network showcases some of the best of our ancient forests, most people don’t realize that it’s almost all protected from logging.  None of the proposed cutblocks go near the trails and the trees are for the most part well within the protected parts of the special management zone.

We believe that the current trails don’t give the public an accurate sense of what will be cut, and also helps the logging companies argue that their activities won’t affect our beloved Walbran.  We’ve always wanted to have a trail that went through all the planned cutblocks so that people could see the actual flagging taped boundaries, and witness with their own eyes which trees are marked for harvest.

This past fall, our project got underway with bang!  After extensive exploratory bushwacking, a tiny grove of behemoth cedars was discovered nestled between 3 cutblocks.  The grove was on par with any of the other groves in the valley and had arguably more giants per square acre than anywhere else.  We explored the hillside looking for good trail lines and found even more giant cedars and doug firs all over the place.

After a few weeks of exploring and building, our new trail is almost ready for unveiling.  A long, challenging loop trail that will get the stoked up for big tree lovers and hikers alike.  The trail will go through some of the most striking features of this forest, while dipping in and out of the flagging boundaries.  You’ll be amazed and saddened by the size of these trees, and by the sight of the flagging tape.  The trail will also have a special extension to THE best view of the valley.  High up on a rocky outcrop, the trail overlooks the walbran, Anderson lake, the falls, and the pacific!!!!

The trail isn’t done yet, but stay tuned.  It will be ready for the spring :-).

Moe Trails
New Trail in the Walbran
The Castle Giant

The Castle Giant

Originally Published by OlivierClements.com

A few weeks ago, Will and I headed off to the Walbran to do a little bit of exploring, and ended up cutting a pretty sweet trail to a recently discovered grove of massive cedars. 

The trail isn’t quite finished so I won’t give away too much, but I will say this; the trail goes by over a dozen cedars over 12m in circumference, a couple giant doug fir trees (super rare in the Walbran), and a mega tree over 17m in circumference.    Sadly, almost all these trees are well within the proposed cutblocks on the hillside and could be cut down at any point….  Stay tuned for more info & trail maps,.

We headed to the valley late in the afternoon and by the time we got to the FSR, it was pretty dark outside. As we drove up a hill about 40mins behind Cowichan Lake, the sky lit up with a dim orange glow and a pretty dramatic scene unveiled itself. Across the valley, the whole hillside was on fire. You hear the crackle of these gigantic fires, see the huge flames shoot up in slow swirls, and hear the sound of a city block worth of wood being burnt to the ground. Since the weather had cooled off, logging companies were starting to burn slash piles. It’s a forest fire prevention strategy done after a harvesting operation to try to curtail the debris left behind drying out and catching fire in the summer. Doing controlled burns in the wet fall/winter seasons removes the fuel sources and helps return some nutrients to the soil. I gotta say though, seeing this massive fire without any supervision was a little disconcerting. Two years ago, some of these burns got out of control and resulted in multiple hectares of forest being burnt down.

Moe Trails