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Gashes in the forest caused by fire, blowdown or human intrusion are quickly filled in by pioneer species such as fireweed or salal. Quick growing red alder and maple soon take over, being themselves supplanted in turn by Douglas fir once soil has stabilized. Eventually shade tolerant climax species such as western red cedar and western hemlock will come to dominate. The whole process can take centuries if not millennia. Immature fireweed plants can be cooked whole like broccoli while the young leaves can be used as salad greens. Fireweed is high in both beta-carotene and vitamin C. During pre-contact times fireweed seed fluffs found utility as pillow stuffing.
Illustration by Manami Kimura
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Written by Brian Grover   
Pachena Bay to Michigan Creek 12 kilometres.
After signing in at Pachena Bay at the northern end near the community of Bamfield you'll find the going very easy at first. A number of impassible headlands make beach walking out of the question until Michigan Creek. The first 10 km of the trail follow what was once a supply road for the Pachena Point Lighthouse. As a consequence the trail is generally flat and so wide that walking two abreast is possible. Just a kilometre before the lighthouse on this pretty but otherwise uneventful section of trail a viewpoint affords a view of Flat Rocks where sea lions often enjoy basking in the sun on a warm spring or autumn day.

At the lighthouse you'll be greeted in your native language no matter where in the world you come from. Hikers are welcome to look around the Lighthouse grounds during posted visiting hours but keep in mind that this is home to the lighthouse keepers. Disturb nothing including the keepers as they go about their daily chores. Only recently the original tower was decommissioned, replaced with an automated light-on-a-stick. The original beacon at Pachena Point, now a Recognized Heritage Building, is the last remaining wooden lighthouse in British Columbia. The massive Fresnel lens and oil wick lamp have operated faultlessly since 1907.

Two kilometres on consider calling it a day at the popular Michigan Creek campsite[km 12.] After setting up camp check out the boiler and other rusty bits of iron from the steamship Michigan that ran aground here in January 1893 costing a number of lives.

Much of the next day will be spent hiking along the beach. Loose rocks, slippery seaweed-covered surfaces, soft sinking sand and surge channels all require special attention especially when encumbered with a heavy backpack. The majority of ankle, wrist and arm injuries occur on the intertidal shelf. A sturdy driftwood walking stick or ski pole can go a long way towards providing the additional stability needed along the shore route. Once you reach the ladders at the bottom end of the trail you'll doubtless agree that a collapsible walking stick is well worth the investment.


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