The Magnificent Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park on Vancouver Island is glorious. The tree canopy in some places is eighty metres high and some trees are as wide as cars. When I was there this week parents delighted in taking pictures of their children sitting on huge fallen tree trunks and climbing over vast root systems. I hope you enjoy this slide show and are inspired to visit the park.


  1. And the root system is like an apron under the Christmas tree, much of it only a few inches deep. So the forest protects the trees from high winds but, when forests getting thinned for some kind of construction, huge trees can be blown over leaving the root system as you can see.

    Wildwood is a old growth sustainable logging property (closed I think because of Covid) south of Nanaimo but north of Ladysmith. Merv Wilkinson was a friend and taught a bunch of us at Malaspina (the old university next to the ‘other’ Diefenbunker) about sustainable forestry practices. This taught us that wood was truly a renewable and valuable resource. The floors of our home, for example, were entirely laid in the early 1920s and had 18 foot cedar strips, 3 inches wide, without any knots. That’s old growth heartwood. In the sunlight it glowed golden but warmed the light throughout the year. This wood was from Merv’s place. So it’s not the cutting down of trees that is a problem; it’s the kind of logging of forests that’s the unsustainable problem. Also, when wood grows in the forest, it doesn’t twist to get the light that so much modern wood – 2nd and 3rd growth – suffers from.

    Anyway, forestry is vital to BC. Sustainability is the key and not the cutting down of trees.

    Anyway, if you have the chance, check out the multistory underground Diefenbunker! Very cool!

      1. Ah, what a shame. I believe it was 6 stories all underground with a large reservoir of fresh water. Most Canadians don’t know Nanaimo’s military importance: starting with being the coal center for Britain’s Pacific fleet. (Boat Harbour is I think the only privately owned harbour in Canada and was the main refueling depot. We would often spend the day walking and follow the old rail bed south of Hemer Park, see the encased mining openings and all the steel infrastructure that would transport the coal to the rail and then to the extended dock. When I was out for the day with my son, I would make up all kinds of Star Wars stories with blaster sites to be seen and crushed coal to mark areas of battle and huge footprints of Walkers out of which trees and ferns tried to hide and remnants of the old rebel base to regale my son when we spent many, many hours walking through this ‘ancient’ industrial heartland almost but not completely reclaimed by the rain forest.

        This history matters when it comes to how Nanaimo developed (like the lakes I mentioned) and helps explain in part why things are the way they are. The water table, for example, is affected by the presence of coal so this surface water was a very important resource for drinking water. The high pressure wells used by the RDN today (Regional District of Nanaimo) produce some of the best quality water and must be tasted to be believed but there are lots of properties that rely on local groundwater. You can usually tell right away because it often smells like rotten eggs! That’s the sulphur from the coal. I mention this in case you are looking to purchase; water quality matters, of course, and much of the region uses septic so know that the region has weird groundwater topography (we had a large pond at the top of a hill, and Yellowpoint is infamous for poor water for example, and the Nanoose bay area – a beautiful deep water straight bay used for NATO submarine torpedo testing BTW – has this massive igneous outcropping that also affects how water seeps and in what direction through the ground… you don’t want to be ‘upstream’ so to speak from someone’s septic discharge and being above is no guarantee!).

        But Nanaimo was also a strategic site for staging a defense against Japanese invasion (with all kinds of ammunition and equipment bunkers near the airport – named after a WWI flying ace Collishaw – which was then later turned into a strategic command center at the height of the cold war. Hence, the Deifenbunker. Nanaimo was halfway between the Navy’s base in Esquimalt and the air force base at Comox (where the Snowbirds winter and practice quite a bit) as well as close enough by land and air to house Important People should the need suddenly arise. The Nanaimo Air Cadet Corp (on the same grounds where the Deifenbunker was located) is usually Canada’s top ranked marksmen team and has a long history of producing many of the world famous military snipers spoken about with awe by other militaries throughout the world. They are much feared, as they should be.

        There is also a direct deep sea port at Harmac (the pulp and paper facility south of Duke Point ferry terminal that makes its pulp from fine grained Carolinian mud that has to be specially shipped there, if you can believe it: hey, the high quality toilet paper we demand needs no less!) as well as part of the Harbour City’s extended docking facilities. So it has a lot of reasons to be useful. Living downwind has its issues and, again, the topography matters in how this seepage flows. One valley is not like the next.

        If there’s any way you can get out on the water, you should. Be it dining at the Dingy Dock or going for a kayak or even a boat ride, experiencing Nanaimo from the water is worth it. I used to kayak from Gabriola to the marine park south of Ruxton any time I wanted if the weather was decent. Crystal clear water, sea lions, eagles, herring, orcas and grey whales on occasion, cormorants, loons, otters, lots of fish, crabs, oysters, gooeyducks on the beach, deadheads to be reported, lots to see and do where ocean meets land. It’s a whole other world and helps make such a place very interesting to discover and experience.

        1. Lots of interesting history. Thanks, Tildeb. Someone else mentioned to me that some areas have water issues, so I’m keeping that in mind.

          I was going to go out on the water today but it has been so darned hot I thought I would burn to a crisp. I’ll do on my next visit, though.

  2. Oh my, what a gorgeous Grove and Park! That sort of tranquility Anne is certainly where we 2-legged mammalian animals belong it, right? 😉 I bet that was very invigorating and REinvigorating for you. 🙂

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