Friday, August 18, 2006



I just returned from a week-long trip into the wilderness on the north-east corner of the island just north of the Brooks Peninsula. My goal was to return to the ancient rainforest of East Creek to begin shooting a film.

East Creek is one of only six watersheds that still remains pristine out of an original ninety-one on Vancouver Island, the other eighty-five have been clear-cut logged. East Creek, Carmanah Valley, and three watersheds in Clayoquot Sound are all that remains of the intact ancient rainforest we know so little about.

Geographically the primeval rain forest on the shores of East Creek is isolated by rugged mountains, long fjords, a wind-swept coastline with steep, exposed cliffs and thousands of dangerous reefs. The annual rainfall is more than 3500 mm. The rain forest of the Klaskish is at the base of Brooks Peninsula, which held off the glaciers during the last ice age, and is inaccessible by land. The people of the Kwakwala plied these waters for over 10,000 years, moving goods and people between the village sites protected by the many inlets along this rugged coast. The remote and rugged location of this rain forest has protected it from one hundred and fifty years of industrial logging, until today.

I drove a small Subaru station wagon loaded with gear and topped with two 6 meter sea kayaks past the concrete mass of the fume belching pulp mill at Port Alice which was built in 1910. We then drove 75 km of logging road labyrinth through Christmas tree plantations, clear-cuts leveled for the second time for cheap pulp logs, and onto fields of stumps cut from the mountain ridges right down to the ocean’s edge.

As soon as we had crossed a bridge over Klaskish Creek the logging road began a series of steep switchbacks where, according to my topographical map the road into East Creek rises nine hundred meters over one kilometer. This extreme road winds through clear-cuts on Crown land in what is designated as sensitive management by the BC Ministry of Forests. Suddenly the entire road ahead was filled by a fully loaded off-road logging truck roaring towards us with 100 tons of enormous ancient logs stacked twice as high as the truck. Luckily I was able to pull off where a grader had widened the road. It was truly heartbreaking to see this massive truck drive past us loaded with 1000-year-old yellow and red cedar from the highlands of the East Creek valley.

Unable to drive up the steep logging road we decided to try accessing the ancient rainforest of East Creek by paddling our kayaks to the mouth of the Klaskino Inlet and then along the open coast for 8 km in the Pacific Ocean. Amongst the rocky reefs and associated kelp beds we watched several Sea Otters swimming, diving, and squealing in their high pitched tones. Through binoculars I gazed at an adult smashing a Sea Urchin with a stone and a tiny young pup scrambling onto her belly to eat the tasty treat.

We camped on a well protected sand beach at Heater Point. The next morning we hiked out to the open coastline of the Pacific Ocean to check out the surf. We watched waves pound into the steep granite cliffs of the rugged coast dotted with offshore rocks. For the next three days the coast guard weather report called for gale force winds in Brooks Bay.

We paddled back the way we had come, stopping at an ancient village site standing alone in the midst of massive clear cuts which have devastated most of the shores of Klaskino Inlet. We marveled that the five foot deep midden along the shore and ventured into the tiny stand of old growth forest where we looked at examples of trees that were Culturally Modified several hundred years ago for a variety of uses by First Nations. Massive planks split off living Cedar trees which continue to grow, Sitka Spruce with massive holes burnt into them so that pitch could be harvested, totem and canoe trees left behind due to splitting.

On the way back we sighted ten bears, several of them cute and very curious cubs, foraging below the tide line. All the while we paddled closer to the extreme logging road over the ridge into East Creek through piles of debris, exposing blasted rock, and scares created by landslides. BC Forest Minister Rich Coleman