Category archives: Exploration and discovery

Trip to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park

I recently spent a few days up in beautiful, isolated northern-central BC, near Bella Coola, the “gateway to the Great Bear Rainforest”. My husband and I, and our moms, spent time enjoying the sights along the Atnarko River and the forests, including a trek back to see the Nuxalkmc petroglpyhs. This journey will be further explored in a book and short video titled The Enchanted Rainforest (coming out next year), but the following photos are a little teaser. These photos are copyright by Morgan and Mary Woodbury.


Bella Coola Lodge, Hagensborg


Atnarko River


Tweedsmuir Provincial Park


Mama and cubs


Gardens at Kinikinik Lodge

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Callout for contributors to Great Bear Rainforest project

105Moon Willow Press, which runs BC Rainforest, is working on a special project, named The Enchanted Rainforest, to culminate in 2015-2016. This rainforest project will celebrate the Pacific Northwest Temperate Rainforest with a video/school project, printed book, and e-book and will include information from our Great Bear Rainforest Series as well as contributor quotes and stories.

You are invited to become a contributor to The Enchanted Rainforest! Together we will inspire people to care more about preserving the “lungs of the earth,” the largest, intact temperate rainforest on our planet. Moon Willow Press describes this ancient realm:

Marked by lots of rainfall, misty horizons, glacier-fed rivers and inland lakes, moss-laden forest floors, mature trees, fjords, and great biodiversity, the forest could be described as sacred. The area boasts some of the oldest and most mature trees on the planet, including Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, red cedar, and western hemlock. The fir and spruce can reach up to 300 feet tall. The western red cedar can grow 19 feet in diameter. Myriad species interact in this region–which combines freshwater, terrestrial, estuarine, and marine geography–including salmon, marine-diet wolves, black and grizzly bears, eagles, orcas, sitka deer, marbled murrelets, foxes…

The project will also educate people about how the Northern Gateway, other pipeline projects, logging, and mining could threaten (if they haven’t already) this most beautiful but also critical habitat area for rare and/or endangered species.

What we are looking for:

  • Photos
  • Quotes (from people who have visited the area)
  • Story contributions: do you live in the area, or have you visited it; perhaps you would like to write a brief testimonial about your experiences
  • Corporate support for traveling to the rainforest in late 2014 or early 2015

All organizations and individuals helping to bring this project to completion will be credited in the book and video.

A portion of book sales will be donated to a non-profit working toward rainforest conservation. Interested non-profits may send letters of interest to Moon Willow Press.

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Spirit of the Coast

056Spirit of the Coast is a three-month canoe paddle that began this past Sunday in Fort Langley and will end in Alaska. The trip, led by wilderness guide Chris Cooper, will encompass 1,300km up through BC in order to raise awareness of the beautiful coast. The trip is not about a protest, but about celebration. According to Cooper:

Spirit of the Coast is about awareness, education, culture, environment and most of all bringing attention to our beautiful BC Coastline and to share with Canadians what an amazing place we have, it is not a protest, but about educating all that have never seen it.

The trip is also to bring awareness of the First Nations communities of BC.

People from various countries, including South Africa, England, Scotland, the United States, Ontario, and Canada will be paddling.

Kwantlen Cultural Centre
Kwantlen Cultural Centre
Kwantlen Cultural Centre
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When trees do weird things, or how I found Fangorn Forest on Vancouver Island

This is a fun post, but in all seriousness, recent hikes on the west coast of Vancouver Island proved wonderfully amazing. On the way from the ferry to Tofino, we walked around Cathedral Grove, which is a forest of giant trees, the largest being 800 years old.

We came across a nurse log, which is a fallen tree that aids other ecological growth around it.


Nurse log in Cathedral Grove

We also saw a “big tree”, the largest tree in the park. This giant Douglas-fir is over 800 years old, 76 meters tall, and 9 meters around. The species is one of Canada’s oldest living trees and can live to over 1,000 years old. It makes the Leaning Tower of Pisa look like a little dwarf.


My mom-in-law and husband (6′ 3″) standing in front of a rather large fallen log and the 800′ Douglas-Fir at Cathedral Grove.


I found it impossible to get the entire tree in one photo.

Then we came across a “living stump,” which is a tree stump that is still living thanks to, as a sign post by BC Parks stated, a system of underground connections. The bark curling over the top receives nourishment even though it has no greenery to capture sunlight. It survives by grafting its roots onto those of a nearby tree.


A living stump

The forest felt old and primitive and completely bewildering. The soft, green, lush, misty woodland, though technically not far away from the old highway traversing the island, makes you feel like you’re somewhere far away in time. Old growth indeed isn’t just about the tall living trees but all the fallen trees, ferns, the decay, the moss, the lichens, the tiny organisms, and the larger mammals. I posted one of these photos at my small publisher’s Facebook site and a friend who I call the “Dharma Bum” said it looked like Endor. He is right. I mean, check this out.


Not really Endor

As we were walking along, we came across what appeared to be another stump of sort, though it wasn’t really attached to the tree next to it. We decided it was an ent egg. What do you think?


Ent egg? Does the Fangorn Forest have those?

It is hard to really describe this forest. Every where we turned we saw another shape, another fallen log, another uprooted tree. Check out these roots from a large fallen tree.


Uprooted tree

We came across what appeared to be a bird of some kind but was really just an outshoot from a fallen tree.


Mythical bird branch

On Day 2 of our trip, we visited the Botanical Gardens near Darwin’s Cafe. The Tofino Botanical Gardens Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspire conservation of temperate forests; it’s located on a 12-acre waterfront site in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Guess who we found there? Keep in mind we had already seen the ent egg a day before. Now we had found Gollum, preserved in an eternal sleep on the forest floor.


Our very own Gollum

The gardens were beautiful, with surprising little artifacts everywhere–a rusted typewriter, a wire man, an old boat. Check out these curled branches on a tree.


Curled branches

On Day 3 we walked the Wild Pacific Trail, a 2.7km trail–an easy hike–that circles the area around Terrace Beach, He-Tin-Kis Park, and the Amphitrite Lighthouse Point. Much of the trail parallels cliffs overlooking the sea.


Twisted tree with small dragon heads (at least I can spot a couple)

And some trees aren’t so misshapen but peaceful and balmy.


Serene trees with a small one in the middle

Being on top of cliffs makes some trees lean from the wind (I’m assuming).


Leaning trees

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I will be sharing more photos (and video) in the “Evergreen Project”, to be published in 2015.

Photos copyright by Morgan and Mary Woodbury
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Dreams of the rainforest


Waterfall near Roberts Creek, photo by M. Woodbury

I have written a lot about the northern Pacific temperate rainforest, of which the Great Bear is a part. You can read my series here. But I am relatively new to Canada, having grown up in the United States (South and Midwest). I had known from a young age that the far northern coast of western Canada, before you hit Alaska, was beautiful with its deep coniferous woodlands, fjords, whales, birds, wolves, salmon, bears, and other wildlife and plants. I knew up there was a mystical woodland, the likes of which were ancient and somewhat isolated. This place was to me, as a child in Indiana, somewhere I would probably never go to. In college, one of my majors was cultural anthropology, and I remember studying about the potlatch, a tradition in the forest–the cultural possibility seemingly as far away as the great rainforest of British Columbia.

To be honest, when I married my husband, who lived in British Columbia, I still didn’t realize how close I could be to that wonderful forest. And even though I have lived here now as a resident for 5 years, the rainforest seems such a faraway place and impossible to get to. It still seems to be a fantasy, as much so as Tolkien’s Old Forest, an immense primordial woodland. When you are in Vancouver, you can look north to the foggy wilderness and catch a glimpse, at least in your imagination. To be sure, our city is part of the great rainforest, and we do get plenty of rain.

Not long ago, on a foggy winter day like today’s, we came home from a visit in Kamloops–where cold, white mountainous ranch country gave way to the valley’s green wonders and where in the summer it is dry and desert-like. During that visit we saw how the combination of hoar frost from fog two nights prior, and freezing rain from one night prior, had painted the trees with delicate twisty white magic, and it was mystical and made me stare in awe for hours. When we came home we headed toward the coastal rainforest.

Soon after leaving Kamloops we were in the Monashee Mountains, where tall peaks of white were punctuated by stately pines careening into a deep fog. We went on like this for an hour or more, snug in the cradle of the mountains with their frozen waterfalls and endless ranges. Then, as the drive went onward, we came through the avalanche tunnels and down into the coastal plateau, where it became dry and partially sunny, and very green–a hint at the rainforest. Toward the border, we can always view Mt. Baker, which I know from flying into and from the south coast is surrounded by alpine valleys and impossibly beautiful fjords. On the other side of the highway are the hills of the Coast Mountains.

My mother had expressed interest in going to the Great Bear Rainforest with me either in 2014 or 2015, and we finally settled for this summer on Bella Coola in late August; my mother-in-law is also coming. If you read the link above, you’ll realize that it is very possible that this coastal hinterland will become a major port for 225 supertankers a day coming in and going out as Canada expands its thick oil sands operations in Alberta to provide an Asian export.

I cannot think of much that is sadder–because I truly believe this rainforest is the last of its kind, certainly the largest of its kind–home to rare and endangered species as well as old cultures still relying on a healthy wilderness area surrounding them as a link to their livelihood. It is not as if no industry there exists already–it does, in places. But to me the newest resource offloading to Asia is impossible to justify considering this rainforest is in the same area as where twin pipelines would be laid and where oil would be shipped in such fantastical amounts. I can’t even fathom how it would work to bring supertankers in and out of the Kitimat port, which lies at the head of such rugged and unpredictable-weather-beaten channels.

Throughout our recent trip, I kept thinking about the forest. I decided last summer to create a book and film about it, but first knew that I would have to travel there, so I had been planning in my head a little, but over our short stay in Kamloops, I needed to depart from rich consumerism, and I began to strongly feel the call of the wild. I researched how to get to the place I wanted to go so that I could tell my mother, and she and I and my husband could begin to plan. I wanted to go to Kitimat, the actual port, but am not sure of how to get there, so settled on Bella Coola.

My feelings about this faraway area being so isolated are somewhat true. It would take over 15 hours to drive there, whereas if there were a highway straight up, we could be there in half the time. I don’t want there to be a highway straight there; I’m glad these wilderness areas are not developed much and that they are relatively inaccessible. You can find a small plane that would get you there in two hours–there being Bella Coola, which is near Tweedsmuir Park, a place well known for grizzly bear viewing and fjord and river trips, but the plane is the same price as it would be to fly thousands of miles further to see family. There are also a lot of expensive eco-tours (again, I cannot complain about the price–the area deserves to be preserved and would never be that way if it were easy to get to).

We will take a guided tour down the Bella Coola and Atnarko Rivers–a rafting tour that has a river guide and a biologist. If you go between August and October, the rivers are full of salmon, so seeing bears is likely. Not sure if we’d see a spirit bear, but really, everyone wants to see one and I am just fine if they don’t want to be seen!

My goal is to film, take photos, hopefully interview some locals, and just get immersed into this great area that is so threatened by the oil industry. What a shame to corrupt such wilderness with pipelines and supertankers. I just want to see it, document it, preserve it.

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Wells Gray Provincial Park, Wiki Commons

British Columbia – rainforest news

081Here’s some interesting news of late:

The San Francisco Gate recently blogged on how to get close to wildlife in British Columbia, citing one way is to kayak around Blunden Harbour, where the paddler can watch salmon, bald eagles, and seagulls. This scene is backdropped by the rainforest’s spruces and cedars.

Earlier this year, stakeholders agreed on a plan to protect 70% of rainforest on the mainland coast. First Nations worked with environmental groups and a handful of forestry companies to organize and solidify plan, which the government and First Nations have a deadline of approving by March 31, 2014.

The Guardian recently reported that there is a problem with trophy hunters hunting grizzly bears in BC. The story starts with two Heiltsuk First Nation brothers, who were working in a coastal estuary in the Great Bear Rainforest, with “Cheeky”, a grizzly they’d named–they witnessed Cheeky being shot by big-game hunters. A McAllister Opinion Research pol states that 80% of British Columbians oppose trophy hunting of this iconic animal in BC. Another interesting economic note is that eco-tours, reliant on live grizzly bears, bring in nearly 50 times as many jobs as hunting.

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New fossil discoveries in Kootenay National Park


Wiki Commons: Reconstruction of Opabinia, one of the strangest animals from the Burgess Shale

Marble Canyon–its precise location kept secret for now–is an archeological site in the Kootenay Canyon where scientists are unearthing dozens of fossilized arthropods, to the tune of 50 fossils in just 15 days of exploration. The site, discovered in 2012 by Canadian, U.S., and Swedish researchers, is not too far from the Burgess Shale site, also a large and important fossil bed. The report was published in Nature Communications. Authors: Jean-Bernard Caron, Robert R. Gaines,  Cédric Aria,  M. Gabriela Mángano & Michael Streng.

Already scientists have discovered eight new species, according to CBC. The preservation of these fossils is also excellent.

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Roadside snow on trees

Planning a trip into the Great Bear

Roadside snow on trees

Roadside snow on trees

Late this summer, as part of my press’s ongoing education about the rainforest, we’ll be heading up to Bella Coola to the BC Mountain Lodge, with family and friends, to do some filming and photography for an upcoming short film and book that will celebrate this enchanted rainforest and preserve it in our (and your!) libraries.

With threats of oil sands expansion through the rainforest and along BC’s coastal waters, we want to do everything possible to let people know just how important this area is, culturally and ecologically.

The trip is in its planning stages now, and it’s exciting during this cool, rainy season to prepare for a river raft trip up coastal rivers (the Bella Coola and Atnarko Rivers) to drift by grizzly bears as they take advantage of spawning salmon. Along with bears will be bald eagles.

We will keep you updated on the progress of this project as it goes forward, and invite you to participate!

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I am looking for someone to share in an adventure

431px-Mirkwood_-_entranceI’d like to share our most recent newsletter, from Moon Willow Press:

Evergreen: Saving our Rainforest

Yes, we are looking for people to share in an adventure!

Yesterday, Canada and the rest of the world learned the outcome of months and months of Canadians bearing witness and bringing scientific and environmental concerns about the proposed Northern Gateway twin pipeline project to the Joint Review Panel. Keep in mind that this review process heard from 389 witnesses in Kitimat, 1,179 oral submitters, and about 9,500 letter submitters–all of these people opposing the project, with the exception of two. The supposedly independent panel still recommended the project go ahead, albeit with over 200 conditions.

While not surprising, this green light supports what we already know the federal government wants to do, and that is to approve the project despite First Nation treaty rights, residents’ oppositions, and scientific and environmental concerns.But it’s very simple: putting supertankers on the coast of the largest, intact temperate rainforest in the world–carrying bitumen oil, which a) cannot be cleaned up from the water and b) is being run by Enbridge, which still has not cleaned up a 2010 spill on the Kalamazoo River–means that we stand to face an irreversible environmental catastrophe on our coast. The oil spill potential is only one side of the issue; oil sands expansion means cutting down more of Canada’s Boreal forest, polluting soil and rivers with tailing ponds leaks and other runoff, further contributing to emissions in a day and age we know climate change and carbon dioxide should be curtailed, not increased, and piping oil and highly corrosive dilbit through our rainforest.  Quite frankly, the reaction from the community that hasn’t been blindsided by Enbridge’s promises and greenwashing is one of shock and awe. The logic is all there. Do not put supertankers on our coast. Do not continue to threaten this important rainforest and marine ecosystem. Do not take away First Nations’ way of life. Do not ignore their treaties. Do not threaten existing industries in the rainforest such as fisheries and eco-tourism. Boost Canada’s economy with cleaner energy and technologies. We can do it.

Our adventure involves a book, short film, and e-book, including photography and eyewitnesses from people living or traveling in British Columbia. We want to celebrate this beautiful land, culture, and wilderness now before it is potentially ruined forever. Books preserve through documentation, and this is our biggest book project yet, though we are still in high hopes that the pipeline project never gets approved, and if it does, will not be built due overwhelming opposition. Ours is an adventure that goes over The Hill and across the Water, as we plan to travel to the rainforest to photograph and film it. Please see more at Evergreen–the Great Bear Rainforest Project.

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BC holiday gift ideas


Pine needle basket, courtesy Wiki commons

In the last few years I’ve been very much into making my own gifts rather than being the wonderful consumer that corporations want me to be. I feel that gifts shouldn’t have to cost money to be meaningful, shouldn’t contain much plastic to be meaningful, and, if made with my own hands, would mean more than if not.

What kinds of gifts can you make found with natural materials in British Columbia? Note that you should always mind local laws about just taking flora from parks and preserved areas. Some of these materials come from your backyard!

1. Pine needle baskets. If you have access to areas with pines, now is a good time of year to collect their needles. Pine needle coil baskets are a native art form. Instructions on how to make baskets are found here.

2. Wreaths. Using greenery found outside and old wire hangers, you can easily make your own wreath. You can use evergreen boughs as well as holly, dried flowers, and other foliage.

3. Canned goods. This is especially good for people who keep gardens over the summer (remember for next year!). Canning your bounty is a perfect way to preserve goods to give away for the holidays. If you have never canned before, you can learn all about canning here.

4. Jars. Although not really a natural find, you’ll probably buy a number of items each year that come in jars. Rather than recycling or throwing out jars, you can turn them into holders for a number of items found out local markets or in your backyard (holly, pine cones, dried flowers, etc.).

5. Dried flowers. Speaking of dried flowers, at the end of each summer, clip your flowers and dry them out for adornment on wreaths, in jars, in baskets, and so on.

6. Pine cones. Pine cones are all over the place. I found a ton at a nearby campus. Use pine cones for making ornaments or decorating your wreath, jars, and other arrangements.

7. Holly. Holly lasts a long time, and both the evergreen leaves and red berries are good for holiday decorating. Click here for one idea. Note that these decorations make great gifts!

8. Salmon and other fish, dried. British Columbia is well-known for its wild Pacific salmon–be sure that you fish legally! Salmon University has instructions for drying fish.

9. Home-made books. It is easy to make little books, calendars, and empty journals with paper you have at home already. If you do not have paper, I suggest buying 100% recycled copy paper from Staples or hemp paper from Ecosource Paper in Victoria. You might be thinking that “this isn’t local” and you’re right, but my point is that you probably have what you need at home already and you are local–and the ideas can come from your brain! Rather than buying a book shipped from somewhere else, make your own. Be it a poem, a short story, or a book of photographs, you can make these delights with some simple book-binding. Click here for how to glue-bind; click here for how to make a small lotus fold booklet, and click here for how to Japanese stitch. There are a lot of other ways to stitch and sew as well.

10. Don’t have time to make something but want to support local businesses? Visit the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and buy gifts from there. What’s in season in December? Apples, brussel sprouts, cabbage, garlic, pears, rosemary, sage, turnips, and winter squash.

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