Communing with nature

Cyril walks along a path along the valley floor in Fossli Provincial Park.

Cyril walks along a path along the valley floor in Fossli Provincial Park.

There are so many hidden gems on Vancouver Island, and particularly the Alberni Valley that I have yet to discover. One of them was Fossli Provincial Park.
After a friend posted some photos on Facebook from the park, I decided it was time to find it.
Cyril and I set out on a Sunday morning to find the trailhead. Fossli is not one of those provincial parks with a nice paved road and huge signage. It’s a 52-hectare pocket of west coast rainforest, accessible by boat or logging road on the back side of Sproat Lake (the north side of Stirling Arm).
Pioneer Alfred Dennis Faber settled 1,270 acres of property when he came to the Sproat Lake area, fellow Alberni Valley pioneer George Bird wrote in his book, Tse-ees-tah: One Man in a Boat. Fossli Park lies in a smaller tract of land he acquired about half a mile away from his property; he cleared about 10 acres and grew hay and potatoes.
Faber liked this tract of land because of the small waterfall found further inland. He named it Fossli, which means “waterfall in the valley” in his native Norwegian (Faber came from the Eidfjord region of Norway).

The waterfall in Fossli Park can be seen over my right shoulder.

The waterfall in Fossli Park can be seen over my right shoulder.

Eventually, Armour and Helen Ford owned the property. In 1973 they donated the property to the Province of British Columbia to be used as a park. At the end of the trail the terrain opens onto a beach on Stirling Arm, but we didn’t make it that far. Sandy McRuer, a retired Port Alberni outdoor adventure tour operator, wrote in a post about Fossli in 2008 that the foundations to the Fords’ home are still visible just above the beach, and a plaque commemorating their donation of land to the government is located there too.

The drive to find the trailhead was just as much an adventure as hiking the 2.5-kilometre trail was. The “trailhead” is a wooden post with “Fossli Trail” carved vertically into the post, located just past the 4 km signpost on Stirling Arm Main. The potholes on the road were legendary, leading Cyril to mutter, “It’s just like driving the streets of Montreal.”

This post is the trailhead, just past the 4 km mark on Stirling Arm Main.

This post is the trailhead, just past the 4 km mark on Stirling Arm Main.

The trail is well defined, and well marked. We parked at the top and walked down the rocky road to a suspension bridge, which BC Parks rebuilt in 2008 after many complaints, including those from Sandy McRuer. The bridge crosses St. Andrew’s Creek, which feeds into Stirling Arm.

The other side of the suspension bridge at Fossli Park. No trolls under this bridge — just rushing water from St. Andrew's Creek.

The other side of the suspension bridge at Fossli Park. No trolls under this bridge — just rushing water from St. Andrew’s Creek.

Once we crossed the bridge, we descended into the river valley. We took one path that ended with several trees over it, and we weren’t sure where it went so we turned back. If we had continued past the trees we would have come out at the beach.

We followed the sound of the water until we came out on the rocky shore of the creek.

A visual reward. The trail opens up into a view of the creek bed.

A visual reward. The trail opens up into a view of the creek bed.

Green moss and a longer exposure give a softness to the water that rushes over the rocks in St. Andrew's Creek.

Green moss and a longer exposure give a softness to the water that rushes over the rocks in St. Andrew’s Creek.

After that kind of a pause, the trip back up the slope wasn’t so bad. Really. And there were some amusing parts to our trip, too. Like the colourful butterfly, species unknown, that alighted on the gravel in front of me as we started our hike.

Can anyone tell me what kind of butterfly or moth this is?

Can anyone tell me what kind of butterfly or moth this is?

And this was an unforgettable discovery, too!

Someone was having some fun (it's not mine, honest)!

Someone was having some fun (it’s not mine, honest)!

I’m glad I can now add Fossli Provincial Park to my ever-growing list of experiences. Truly a gem, not hidden anymore.

A great experience with a patient partner. He waits for the slowpoke with the camera.

A great experience with a patient partner. He waits for the slowpoke with the camera.

If you’re interested in going, here is a link to the park from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (you can download a brochure with directions and a map): http://www.acrd.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=221

And here is a link to Sandy McRuer’s blog post about the park from 2008: http://vancouverislandnaturetours.com/fossli-provincial-park-a-forgotten-jewel.php

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About susiequinn

I'm a journalist with a pen, notebook, camera and pilot's licence in my toolkit, and a passion for telling people's stories.
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