About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Golden Spruce

The giant trees of the West Coast are the defining feature of Haida Gwaii. In Silver Totem of Shame, the author, R.J. Harlick provides a vivid description:

This was my first up-close look at Haida Gwaii’s famed rainforests and I was overwhelmed. Since old growth white pine grow on Three Deer Point, I was used to the size of tree Mother Earth can produce when left to her own devices, but never in my wanderings in the forests of Eastern Canada had I encountered such monsters. With diameters in excess of five to seven meters, the heights of these red cedars were in back arching territory seventy to eighty meters. According to Becky, these were babies, only a few hundred years old. The six or seven-hundred-year grandmothers were twice the size, but were only found in the inaccessible reaches of the archipelago where loggers had never tread.

For centuries a special Sitka Spruce was honoured by the Haida. It was also of great interest to the white people of the West Coast. The story of the Golden Spruce shall wind up my series of posts involving the Haida of British Columbia  and the mystery, Silver Totem of Shame:

31. - 397.) The Golden Spruce by John Vallant – In the Queen Charlotte Islands a golden Sitka spruce tree started growing about
A bench at the end of the Golden Spruce Trail overlooking the
Yakoun River where the original tree stood.
1700. Its needles were a luminous gold rather than green. In Haida mythology a small boy fleeing disaster with his grandfather looked back after he was told to only look ahead and was turned into the tree. The book explores how the giant trees of the Pacific Northwest grow over the centuries. In the last century the vast old growth forests of B.C. have been cut down. Grant Hadwin, a classic loner, worked in the logging industry. Like many loggers he loved nature. His life is transformed when he has a vision – a mystical calling from the Divine if he had been religious. He militantly turns against the logging industry. In a shocking self-indulgent protest against the logging industry he cuts down the Golden Spruce. He succeeds only in uniting the world against him. Hadwin disappears while on a quixotic sea kayak journey from Prince Rupert to the Queen Charlottes in mid-winter to attend court. It was fascinating to read the attempts made to save the legacy of the Golden Spruce by clone or graft. The results are yet uncertain. I read the book in 2 days. The book provides insight into the life changing experiences of those called by God and feel compelled to respond. (Aug. 8/07) (Best non-fiction of 2007)

A walking trail, the Golden Spruce Trail, was established in the area the tree had grown. More information on the trail  is available at http://www.gohaidagwaii.ca/blog/the-golden-spruce-trail-port-clements.

While the Golden Spruce was felled in 1997 efforts, as set out in my review above, were made to have the tree live again. A
Vancouver Sun newspaper article 2012 sets out how cuttings taken from the tree before and after it was cut down have fared. With regard to cuttings from after the tree went down the article states:

After the original tree came down, the top was sent to the Cowichan Lake Research Station. About 100 cuttings were grafted onto Sitka spruce samples and of those, 60 survived, said station manager Mark Griffin. Twenty have been planted on the property, after spending years in a greenhouse.

Some of the cuttings were given to the Haida Nation.
One was planted in Port Clements, about 10 kilometers from where the original tree stood. The photo below is of that tree. I pray that the tree thrives and grows and future generations can appreciate the majesty of the Golden Spruce.


  1. Oh, what magnificent trees, Bill! Absolutely astounding! I'm so glad you share those 'photos. I'm sure too that the 'photos are nothing compared to what it's like to really see those trees! Thanks for sharing about the book, too. It really does sound interesting.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. The trees are majestic. The book is a non-fiction mystery story. I think you would enjoy it.

  2. You're making me nostalgic again! I have very fond memories of the trees in the NW of the continent...

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I can see you need to go on your computer and go to your favourite airline and purchase a ticket to Vancouver or Seattle!

    2. Oh don't tempt me, Bill, there's nothing I'd like better, if life wasn't in the way!

    3. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I hope you get a chance in the near future to travel to North America.