Monday, November 26, 2012

A Walk in the Rainforest

Temperate Rainforests

The Most Beautiful Places on Earth

Drum roll, please . . . as promised, today I write about the best hike on the Island of Vancouver.  Not only do I rank it Number One in that guidebook I'm going to write (someday), but it merits a spot on my Most Beautiful Places on Earth list.  I did not want to leave.  I could have walked the loop over and over and over.  Forever and ever.

The rain had finally stopped, but not underneath the canopy.  Only 5-10% of sunlight reaches the forest floor.  Once you enter this wet hallowed place, you enter a magical world complete onto itself.  Every organism, plant and animal contributes to the cycle of life.

This particular rainforest trail is located in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.  There are two boardwalk loops, one on each side of the road.  We had arrived late afternoon.  There were no other cars in the parking lot.   Signs were posted at the entrance warning hikers that the boardwalk was also used by bears, wolves and mountain lions.  There were instructions on what to do if you came face to face with one of these wild animals.  Don't look a bear in the eye.  Make lots of noise.  Put up an umbrella.  Gulp.

"What in the world?"

"To make yourself look bigger," my travel buddy said.

I almost turned back.  My trepidation, however, vanished within minutes.  The forest was so beautiful, fresh and fragrant; it was nature at its purest.  Even so, I felt I had walked onto a film set.   Lions, tigers and bears, so what?  Bring 'em on!

Giant firs and cedars touched the heavens.  Ancient and mighty, these trees are hosts to a hundred species of epiphytes, plants that rely on wind and moisture for nutrients, rather than roots buried into tissue.

Moss draped down from the branches above.  Ferns and mushrooms carpeted the forest floor.  Fallen trees are never moved.  The boardwalk is rerouted.  We saw first hand how a fallen tree is not the end but a beginning.  As the woods decays, it absorbs rain water and nutrients, which feed the moss and younger trees around it.

We never did see a bear that afternoon (thank goodness) but they might have seen us.  Who knows?  The forest holds many secrets.  To see only a few of its treasures is an experience I will take with me . . . forever and ever.

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