A visit to Fairy Creek reveals a place of peace and more shades of green than any painter’s palette.
A SOLO VENTURE up the contested Fairy Creek opened my eyes to a territory unknown. One approaches this small watershed through the vast desolation of the Cowichan-Port Renfrew corridor; the scene of a 100-years of cumulative clearcuts.
The ancient canopy closes to a thin blue ribbon of sky above (photo by Roger Wiles)
Ascending the creek bed from Fairy Lake the landscape transforms from one of human dominance to a spectacle of nature unseen and unmolested. Up here you see no stumps with springboard notches, flagging tape boundaries, or even the telltale human debris of plastic twist-ties, broken glass, beer tabs, and cigarette butts. The steep moss-clad valley narrows and the ancient canopy closes to a thin blue ribbon of sky above.
In the language of corporate managers, this complex ecosystem is termed “decadent forest”—so full of rot and decay that it should be condemned for clearance to improve its health and productivity. In fact, I recently heard a company spokeswoman, in all seriousness, describe this complexity by saying, “forests are made up of a great many kinds of sawlogs.”
Up here the creek flows gently from pool to pool even as the greater region has been desiccated by unrelenting weeks of drought. In this cloistered low-elevation watershed there is no snowpack or glacier to modulate the summer base-flow. Yet flow it does, even in August after a dry summer, as the shaded walls of the canyon trickle and the fractured shales weep moisture. Six-inch trout dart about in the clear emerald deeps.
This is a place of peace away from the noise and madness of humanity, teeming with the biodiversity needed to heal our ailing planet, a place of fallen nurse-logs, water ouzels, and striders, and here too be dragonflies. These vertical walls are cloaked in elder and salmonberry, goat’s beard, maidenhair and deer fern, foam flower, fungi, myriad invertebrates, mosses upon mosses, and more shades of green than any painter’s palette.
Truly this is a forest worth more standing!
Roger Wiles lives in North Cowichan, BC and serves on the board of the non-profit Cowichan Community Land Trust.