There is no other place like it in Canada; in fact, I doubt there is a place like it anywhere in the world. I am referring to the enchanted forest known as Cathedral Grove. Located two and a half hours north-west of Victoria, this magnificent forest stands oblivious to man.
Leisurely wandering around, enjoying comfortable temperatures while Port Perry was bathed in heat and humidity was a treat by itself, but having an opportunity to walk among these massive Douglas firs towering high above is spectacular.
The road from Victoria is well maintained and driving is easy. There are several towns along the way, including Nanaimo, a city of over 100,000, which features many fine restaurants to enjoy lunch en route.
Cathedral Grove, in the heart of MacMillan Provincial Park, is located right on the main highway. I was surprised when I arrived, as all I had to do was drive my rental car off the road onto a small, paved, parking area and enter one of the dozens of trails that took me into the enchanted woodland.
The second I stepped from the pavement onto the soft, moist path I was disapperated (as Harry Potter would say) into what appeared to be a land of faeries, gnomes and elves. I cannot recall when I have experienced a greener surrounding. Even in Ireland, where everything is green, I didn’t see such a variety of lush shades of emerald.
The walks along the paths are easy and straight. There are no hills to climb, bridges to navigate or rocks to stumble over. These trails are short walks, not hikes, winding through some of the biggest trees in Canada. Ten to twenty minute loop trails on either side of the highway lead awe-struck visitors through the mighty forest.
The south loop showcases the largest Douglas-fir trees, with the biggest one measuring over 9 metres in circumference.
The trail on the northern side of the road winds through groves of ancient Western Red Cedar to the shores of Cameron Lake. It is peaceful and serene and the only noises which penetrate the silence are the chirping of birds.
I have been fortunate to walk among man-made objects around the world that date back hundreds, even thousands of years, but seldom does one have the opportunity to stroll among natural objects as old as these magnificent trees. Some go back 800 years to a time when King John signed the Magna Carta and Genghis Kahn ruled the Moguls.
McMillan Provincial Park is 301 hectares (745 acres) of natural wildlife in one of Canada’s most remote areas. Since the ruthless wind storms in January of 1997 the park has been undergoing the restoration of its severely damaged trails. Several large trees were toppled and have been allowed to rest where they fell, creating a serene atmosphere to those who walk among them.
Currently there is no entrance fee to the park and no charge for parking, making the area accessible to everyone. The provincial government however, is set to build a new parking lot a mile away from its present location, which has successfully served millions of visitors. With the additional distances to walk, many guests will be restricted from being able to enjoy this wonderful place.
The drive to Cathedral Grove is quite spectacular, passing amazing vistas and rushing waterfalls. If you find yourself in Vancouver take the ferry to Nanaimo and follow Highway 4 for 45 minutes and you will arrive at one of Canada’s most spectacular sights… the Douglas fir at Cathedral Grove.