When I think about Chilliwack, I see contrasts and I see so much beauty. It is fascinating to me to view our piece of the world as others see it from the outside, rather than simply how many of us look at it from the perspective of long-time residents. Many do not live and play amongst our mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys and identify this landscape as a rainforest. However that is exactly what it is. This area is a temperate coniferous rainforest, however it changes greatly from valley-bottom to mountaintop, and it is in this diversity that we truly have something unique.
The Fraser Valley is well known as some of the most fertile earth anywhere in Canada, with mild climates and heavy rainfall that allow for the rampant growth of nearly everything that is seeded here. This asset is well used, it is properly regarded, and many of the residents of our area align strongly with this agricultural identity. However our area is so much more than the bottom of the Valley, it is also made up of rugged mountains, glaciers, rivers and lakes that are all cloaked with amazing vegetation, made possible due to our rainforest climate.
It is a rare and beautiful thing anywhere in the world to be able to take a stroll through multiple climate zones in a single day, and often times on a single hike. We are also fortunate to have the rare and fragile eco zone of the High Alpine Tundra present in our area on only the highest of our peaks. The summits of the Cheam Range would be the very fringe of this zone which usually begins at roughly 2200m of elevation and which is characterized by the only forms of vegetation that can exist here, dwarf plant species, heather and grasses due to the harsh temperatures and winter conditions that persist for much of the year.
Below this we have the Alpine and Subalpine, where the tree line is still banished, heather meadows and brave patches of stunted trees dot the landscape and the views are spectacular. Dominating the majority of our backcountry lands is the oh-so familiar and spectacularly beautiful coniferous rainforests consisting of many varieties of spruce, fir, cedar, hemlock and others. It is this zone that BC’s coast is acclaimed for around the world and in it we find most of the animal species, vast varieties of fungi and plants and hundreds of bird species as well.
Being so close to the ocean and at the foot of the mountains puts us at a fascinating interaction point between coastal animals and birds and inland mountain terrain. It is not uncommon to see seas otters and ocean based birds in Chilliwack, following the Salmon as they make their run back to their spawning grounds in the mountains.
Due to the geographical constraints of Canada, and BC in particular, for acquiring timber and other resources, the protection of our wild lands, through establishment of larger tracks of parks land is far more limited than our neighbors to the south. If it were a merit-based consideration for whether or not our local mountain terrain deserves the same level of protection and acclaim as the massive parks in Washington State, we would certainly have far more parks lands than we do. You need only look at a map that shows the contrast of protection along the 49th parallel to understand that the splendor of the mountains does not stop on a straight line, the will to protect it does.
Get out there and love what we have, experience our community in all of the facets that is has to offer and begin your summer with a walk in the woods, for we truly hav some of the most unique and beautiful terrain anywhere in the world right in our back yard.
“Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs
Sam Waddington is owner of Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors: “Equipping you for Rock, Water, Snow, Sand, Wind and anything else the Outdoors can throw at you!”