We drove about two hours further west, on what was once known as the Canadian Highway (and is now known as the Pacific Rim Highway). A lousy drive at the best of times (the road is nauseatingly-bumpy and swoopy, and heavily-trafficked), but the end is worth the journey.
This is a bog, a domed oligotrophic (rainwater-fed) paralic forest bog, to be precise. The edges of the bog are a stunted version of the normal maritime rainforest, whereas the interior of the bog becomes increasingly-dominated by Sphagnum moss, with scattered hummocks of 300-year old trees. [see note 1].
[4651a/17.jpg] We start in a pine bog forest, comprised of parasol-shaped shore pines (Pinus contorta var. contorta ex. gr. Douglas) with an understory of stunted yellow-cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). The shurb layer consists of salal (Gaultheria shallon), Labrador-tea (Ledum groenlandicum), and mountain bilberry (Vaccinium vita-idaea), with patches of sword-ferns. The tallest of the pines is about twenty metres tall, but most of them are ten to twelve metres tall, and we can here see considerable wind-sculpting and some die-back of the taller trees.
[4653a/17.jpg] Walking about thirty metres further into the bog, we enter the inner rim, where the trees (although still large and free-growing) are beginning to become spaced-out into 'islands' of woody plants, and the sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp. cf. recurvum) becomes more abundant. Note the increased amount of deadwood, both standing and fallen into the moss.
One of the tall 'toothpick' trunks was occuipied by a gang of ravens, who decamped upon the very instant that they saw our camera pointing their way.
[4652a/17.jpg] Another hundred metres takes us slightly uphill, into the distinctly-domed central region of the bog. Here the trees are very small and stunted: the pines are 'coiffed' into globular parasols, and the yellow-cedars are so stunted as to form low creeping masses of shrubby krummholz.
I was loth to dig holes in the bog to discern the thickness of the peat, but bears and wolves had done that work for me: a few decimetres to a few metres (at most 2.5 metres) of peat. The upper thickness of peat agrees reasonably-well with the collier's rules of thumb, that peat compacts into coal at a ratio of 7:1, and that one foot of coal represents about three hundred years' accumulation. We're looking, here, at a domed mass of Sphagnum peat which may have accumulated in the three centuries since the Great Cascadia Earthquake.
[4656a/17.jpg] Another couple of hundred metres takes us out the other side of the bog, into the farther marginal rainforest. Here, in about twenty metres, we make the transition from moss to stunted pines to a wind-sculpted pine-hemlock-cedar forest, with a dense undergrowth of salal, huckleberries, and ferns.
The floor of the forest is still ever-wet, and it constitutes its own bog landscape, but of a rheotrophic (flow-nourished) rather than oligotrophic sort.
The boardwalk runs all the way around the bog, in a 1200-metre circular loop which is refreshingly-hidden from distant view. While one is out there clomping along the boards, one could form the impression of being utterly alone with the ancient landscape.
'Ancient' in the sense, here, that this sort of centrally-raised, concentrically-zoned bog is very much similar to the sort of wetland that formed the commercially-mined coking-coal deposits of Salishaan.
This bog is 30 to 40 hecatares in extent, about the same dimensions as the central 'sweet spots' of the ancient Cretaceous-era coal desposits. Those are quite profitable to work if one can discover their exposed outcrop edges and work in sideways along the coal, but a much harder proposition to find by means of drilling and then to access via shafts.
We've mentioned, before, the role of earthquakes and tsunamis in the coal geology of Salishaan. A typical commercial coal deposit contains 1200 to 3000 years' worth of compressed, fossilised, coalified peat, marked and split by narrow internal bands of volcanic ash and tsunami-borne shell-bearing sand. That makes for interesting inorganic chemistry, such that the 'middlings' materials (the mid-gravity clay-rich coal particles), found in the coal washery rejects, find a ready market in the cement mills of downtown Seattle. The only things we don't find in this modern bog, though, are the footprints of theropods and other saurians: this bog is the home of mammals.
[note 1] 300 years is a tree-ring date for the oldest of the trees. There are older pieces of wood half-buried by peat, belonging to trees which died around about the same time, 300 radiocarbon years ago. There's a geotechnical argument currently in play, that the older trees died owing to being grossly-uprooted and tossed about by seismic shaking around that time, owing to the most recent of the great Cascadian earthquakes having been closely-dated to January of 1700 C.E. How that earthquake was dated is a worthy subject for its own posting: suffice to say that the most significant written records are in Japanese.To learn more:
Cordes, L.D. and MacKenzie, G.A.
1972: A vegetation classification for Phase I of Pacific Rim National Park; in J.G. Nelson and L.D. Cordes (editors): Pacific Rim: an ecological approach to a new Canadian national park; Parks Canada, Studies in Land Use History and Landscape Change, National Park Series No.4; accessed September 25, 2017, via http://parkscanadahistory.com/