Most striking about the island is the lush greenery, the moss, and the ever-present dampness. Suddenly you realize that this is the Rain Forest. The best saying I heard was “if your feet aren't in salt water, then you are probably in the rain forest.”
The trees are so twisted and stunted they look like broccoli, reaching up from a mass of thick, wet moss. Some trees are so big the hobbits could live in them. The vivid greens of the moss covered soil; the ferns that arch up towards the overhanging layers of green vegetation; the impenetrable canopy that blocks out the light can only inspire the imagination.
Our first destination was a small village called Mill Bay just northeast of Victoria.
We were lucky enough to arrive on the first day of the Chinese New Year and enjoy the Dragon Dance Celebration put on by children in the community.
Mill Bay was established in the 1860s, twenty years after Victoria was founded.
Many of the settlers in Mill Bay arrived in 1862, when the HMS Hecate came to the
Cowichan Bay area from England.
According to written records, the standard payment to the natives for settlement land was two blankets.
Mill Bay was the location of a power-generating station for Henry Shepard's sawmill.
An American industrialist named W. Sayward turned the mill into one of the major industries in the area.
Cowichan Lake was too far into the wilderness at the time, but eventually logging spread into the area as well. Mill Bay continued to be the hub of the industry for a number of years.
Logs had to be dragged by oxen in a process called 'skidding'.
The road we took wandered in and amongst the ever present overhanging of vegetation . . . sometimes sunny and sometimes socked-in by mist or low-lying clouds . . . but always surrounded by shadows.
Like always, we wanted to get back before dark but there was just so much to see:
The Salish Bear Pole
The creek rushing through the woods