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big tree hiking guide

The ‘Grand Tour' of UBC

Ralf Kelman, big tree searcher, at The Wreck Beach Fir
 Photo: Ira Sutherland
Join us on Sunday, March 4th 2012, for an adventurous hike along the southern shores of the UBC peninsula Unlike the majority of Pacific Spirit Park, which was logged exhaustively in the 1890’s, the slopes above Wreck Beach and around the UBC Botanical Gardens are relatively intact old-growth forest! The hike will be led by Ira Sutherland, an ancient forest activist and student of UBC forestry. He is certain that this is one of the most accessible and beautiful big tree routes in MetroVancouver. You do not want to miss it!

The hike is open to all members of the public provided that they are in suitable physical condition for hiking on rough trails and steep terrain. The hike will be on a combination of  official and unofficial trails that can be very muddy and slippery following heavy rain. All participants are responsible for their own safety and will be asked to sign a waiver before commencing the tour. Also, participants should come prepared for potentially cool and wet weather and have proper foot gear for negotiating muddy and slippery trails on the rough unofficial beach trail.

Where and When: This hike is fully accessible by public transportation and easily approachable by bicycle or walking for UBC residents and students! We are meeting at 12pm March 4th at the Bean Around The World coffee shop located adjacent to the Old Barn Community Center on Thunderbird Blvd. @ Main Mall in UBC. CLICK HERE FOR TRANSIT MAP. CLICK HERE FOR TRANSIT ROUTE PLANNING. CLICK HERE FOR UBC MAP. The hike will be a total of about 3 hours and will end at Wreck Beach. From there you can ascend the stairs and conveniently walk or take transit to anywhere you need to go. Alternatively, hiking further along the shore towards Tower Beach or hanging out and enjoying the sun (hopefully) on Wreck Beach are very good ways to spend the afternoon! Parking is free on Marine Drive and Old Marine Drive and lots of pay parking is in the area.

Here’s the Plan: Our Group will quickly arrive at the top of Totem Ravine for a revealing view of one of North America’s largest Grand firs. It is very tall (64.5m) to its broken top, has a wide base and an enormous and complex crown with numerous re-iterations. We will then hike along the thickly forested Old Marine Drive to the top of trail 7, where we will take a short hike through a stand of tall grand firs before following the staircase down to the beach. At the bottom of the staircase is a 2m thick Douglas-fir with absurdly large branches! Once on the beach there is one main big tree focal point on the way to Wreck Beach where we will stop at the bottom of Totem ravine to visit a very large Douglas-fir and another Grand fir of near-record size. People can then hike at their own relaxed pace along the interesting shore lined trail towards Wreck Beach. Take note of many other large grand firs and big leaf maples along the route and keep your eyes open ahead for the Wreck Beach Doug, which emerges quite spectacularly from the forest canopy above Wreck Beach. This Douglas-fir is probably the largest tree in UBC.

 Near record-sized Grand fir in
Totem Ravine. Photo: Ira Sutherland
Level of Difficulty: Moderately Difficult. The trail along the beach is a very rough and uneven trail with numerous sharp drop offs and potential hazards such as sections of very slippery and sometimes deep mud, slippery roots, rocks and short sections of walking on logs to by-pass marshes.  We will be on a combination of official and unofficial trails, which are unmaintained and particularly rough. In dry conditions it is relatively simple terrain but following a heavy rain it can be very slippery and challenging.

Suggested things to bring: snacks, water, rain gear (with hood or a good hat), extra sweater, hiking shoes and appropriate outdoor clothing! If it is a very wet day do not wear cotton clothing because cotton is highly absorptive and then a very poor insulator once wet. Examples of appropriate outdoor clothing include: fleece, wool socks, anything synthetic, toques (light and warm!) non-cotton long underwear. When hiking in Vancouver always come prepared for rain! Its always better to come a little over prepared rather than under prepared! Preparing for the elements is an important strategy for being comfortable in nature and maximizing the benefit of your experience.

Another massive Grand fir along the "Grand tour" route
Photo: Ira Sutherland