You can never hug too many trees

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When I was 17, I travelled halfway around the world to hug some trees. Discovering a new environmental passion, I flew off to Vancouver Island to "save" the temperate rainforests.

When I was 17, I travelled halfway around the world to hug some trees. Discovering a new environmental passion, I flew off to Vancouver Island to "save" the temperate rainforests.

Some of the world's oldest and biggest trees grow here, among them a 20-storey red cedar. But logging had put the forests under threat and I wanted to change that.

My parents suggested I was really just hoping to bump into Bryan Adams.

Somehow I persuaded them otherwise and booked on an Environmental Youth Alliance wilderness trek. A Vancouver-based organisation that takes groups of teenagers into threatened wilderness areas, I chose the "Carmanagh and Walbran Watersheds - exploring the ancient rainforests" trip, and handed over $155 (£80).

Equipped with tent, mossie spray and, ahem, waterproof mascara, I met up with the rest of the group in Vancouver at 5.30am.

Fifteen sleepy teenagers and two rather more robust supervisors were packed into a custard-coloured bus. On the drive I got to know my fellow environmental crusaders and, as a token "Englander", was quizzed on the usual things: did I know the Queen? Had I met their Uncle Frank who lived in Bradford?

Eight hours later, we arrived at the Carmanagh Valley. Moving into a rainforest of strange sounds, huge slugs and decaying trees, some of the group became uneasy. We'd been warned to look out for bears and cougars, but not told what we were supposed to do if we actually saw one.

But the fear soon passed and I would happily wake up to find mice in my sleeping bag and slugs the size of bananas in my boots.

Living almost entirely on muesli (meat attracted the animals) we spent our time leaping off waterfalls and swimming in clear pools - when we weren't building walkways, that is. We laughed and sang and trekked and hugged trees until we were delirious.

I didn't save the whole rainforest on that trip, but I did come away with an understanding for the area. And I even forgot to wear the mascara.

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