Posts Tagged ‘the tunnel’

The ‘Tunnel’

   This stretch of North Road is probably one of the nicest drives on the planet.   Although I have driven it  10,000 times over the last 25 years I am still in love with it, and discover something new about it nearly every trip.  


a fine stretch of road in 'the tunnel'

"The Tunnel" is one of Gabriola Island's nicest features

 As the name suggest, the road runs through a virtual ‘tunnel’ of trees – thanks to the absence a sixty-six foot right-of-way that accompanies most roads in B.C.   Like  many roads in this province, North Road began as a  logging road and it was pushed through private land along the easiest route.  With no subdivision of the land, no highway dedication was required and that meant no wide swath of land was given to the province – just the actual roadway.   That meant no room for utility poles – which leads to more clearing.   The result is a relatively narrow and very scenic stretch of road that really gets you close to the forest – and the deer – who live in the area in great numbers.     

   ‘The Tunnel’ begins just south of Buttercup Road at the top of the ridge, and runs gently downhill all the way to Degnan Road – just over 3km. It is a great ride for cyclists, being a gentle rise in one direction, and a fun bit of coasting in the other.  On the hottest summer day it is a cool place to be.   Take four  or five paces off the pavement, and you are in the forest.   One portion runs beside a nature preserve (Elder Cedar) and part of it runs by a large chunk of federal land that is being held pending the outcome of negotiations with local first nations.    

   Although ’the tunnel’  has some mention in the last community plan and some efforts have been made to recognize it as a special part of the island heritage, they fall short of protecting it to the extent required to preserve it.   Without careful stewardship and appropriate development restrictions, it will end up as just another ugly swath of pavement and power lines.    Islanders should be sure to tell their local representatives that it is an important part of our island culture and a popular stretch of road for locals and visitors alike.   

    Early one particularly nice Sunday morning a couple of summers ago, a young woman from Tokyo who had been taking a course at a familiar island retreat, was heading to Silva Bay to catch a float plane back to Vancouver.    She had heard there were many deer on the island, but she had not yet seen one.   I found out that she had actually never seen a live animal larger than a small dog in her life!   As we went through the tunnel I drove slower and slower, in hopes of seeing at least one of the dozens that usually appear during the  early mornings.     Sure enough, a doe and two of her young appeared close to the road and I pointed them out to her.    The look on her face was priceless and tears welled in her eyes as she stared speechless at the trio of deer.    I slowed to a stop and we both watched as the little family crossed the road,  bounced into the forest, and disappeared.    Things got a little misty for me as I realized just how moved this young woman was by those deer.     I will never forget the wonder on that woman’s face and I will never take my trips through the tunnel and my enumerable deer sightings for granted.



03 2010