Driving west towards Tofino there is a small section of highway that winds through a patch of old growth forest. The park is aptly named Cathedral Grove. Trees shoot up hundreds of feet from the roadside. They resemble the vaulting arches of a cathedral. Walking through this area one gets a sense of how the Island once looked. The ground is littered with overlapping logs undergoing various stages of decay. Most are covered in moss and ferns. Some older logs, more decayed, are the nutrient systems for younger trees.
When an old tree arrives at the end of its natural life it is eventually pushed over by wind. A clearing then appears in the canopy. Suddenly a shaft of light reaches a patch of forest floor that might have been shadowed for a thousand years. This microclimate creates not only an incredible visual effect, it is also a growing opportunity for sapling trees that cannot tolerate shade.
Passing through this section of forest on the highway to Tofino, one might think that the Island is covered in untouched forests just like this. But in fact this small patch (only a few square km) is now a rare example of its kind. Almost all of the original growth has been logged. Those replanted forests replacing them contain trees uniform in age. There are no dead trees on the floor. No open clearings allowing sunlight. No new growth. There is an unmistakable difference between old and second growth forests, which partly explains why some people are so motivated to protect those few that remain unlogged.