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Hiking through History by Teresa Burton

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John Quinn Trail
Map of Trails (resolution 1540x942x96dpi - 70,029 bytes)

Round Trip 4 km/2.48 miles - Allow 1.5 Hours

There are two approaches to this trail. Coming in from the east side, the gravel road takes you to parking within 40 meters of the trail. Follow the signs and stay right at the forked and twisted cedar. From the west, you may park at the Port Renfrew Recreation Centre or ball field. From here, the first thing you will see is the beaver dams.

The route of this trail stays to the bottom of the hill and follows an old timber road. You will see evidence of this along the way. The second growth forest here is predominately Western red cedar and Western hemlock, naturally reseeded. The previous forest was much the same, except for the size of the ancient cedar. From the stories of the Quinn era, we have been told this forest looked like it was a prime location for his operation.

This timber road was one of many built from 1926 to 1936 to access timber along the lower edges of the hills between here and Botanical Beach. The operation was run by a tall, fair-skinned and blue-eyed Manchurian, John Quinn. Quinn came to Port Renfrew in 1926 to start a shingle mill and to ship out pulpwood cants. He built a mill at the government wharf and installed four shingle machines which were powered by steam and operated from line shafts. In 1932, he acquired a sawfiler, Harry Smith, who would, in 1935 with partner Islay Mutter, take over the mill.

Quinn operated on a shoe-string budget typical of the depression days when wood products and shingles were not worth that much money. Most everything in the woods was labour intensive and a crew of about 100 men may be realistic. He hired Chinese labourers and any man, no matter what their nationality, to live meagerly but to prove employment and always good food!

The wood was moved in four-foot lengths, shingle bolts from cedar and pulpwood cants from hemlock, spruce and balsam. A plank road for the trucks was built at the low point on the production site, and from this, log chutes on T-frames were built up the hills into the timber. The trees were hand felled, cut to four foot lengths and split into manageable sizes. The pulpwood cants were peeled of all bark, this being quite a chore. Then the cants and bolts could be moved with picaroons and fed into the log chutes. The chutes required watering to keep the heat down and grease was applied to keep the speed up. At the road, the scattered pile was loaded onto an old truck and brought to the mill site.

Note: Think it would be better to elaborate on the beavers instead of all this loggers' talk.

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