Part 1 – Haida Gwaii

Off on another adventure, this time through our home province of BC. It’s very easy to see how we adopted the theme “Beautiful British Columbia” when you travel across it, and then onto the enchanting islands off the north coast,  Haida Gwaii, aka Queen Charlotte Islands.  Departure from Chetwynd was August 15th, a relatively short drive of 697 km, to Smithers.  Such a beautiful little community, known for their exceptional downhill skiing, glaciers and beautiful rivers and streams.  We camped at the Municipal campground, as we always do, right beside the rushing waters of the Bulkley River.  The next morning we headed further along highway 16 for the 2 hours drive to Terrace, my home town. The highway follows the winding turns, of the Skeena River, through snow capped mountains and flows right through the city of Terrace. There we spent the night with my Mom, and after having a great visit headed out the next afternoon traveling again along the Skeena River for 143 km to Prince Rupert. Unfortunately the entire trip was done in heavy rain, and fog.  We were not able to see all the majestic mountains that line the river. The rain was relentless continuing all day, and night! We went into Cow bay and wondered around the shops, and stopped at the tourist info centre.  We  were treated to beautiful views of the harbor, even in the rain it was beautiful. As well we did some reading  on the history and culture of the city.   The yacht that was docked brought fantasies of luxury cruising to mind, as we left to settle in for the night in our 8 foot camper!

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We wake up to the rain still falling on the 18th  in the city of Prince Rupert,  aka the City of Rainbows… but with fog and clouds blanketing the hills, mountains and islands the sun didn’t have a hope in shining through, alas there were no rainbows as we boarded the ferry, Northern Adventure at 10 am for the 7 hour trip to Haida Gwaii.

About ½ ways through the trip, the sun made an appearance, although it was still  cold, and windy on the deck we didn’t spend much time there. Arriving at Skidegate on Graham island we travelled  10 km to the village of Queen Charlotte. We found an RV site with full hook ups, The Bunkhouse Resort, we pulled in and reserved our spot.  Maybe we should have looked around!   We headed back into the town to the tourist information centre, where when we asked,  we were advised not traveling the Queen Charlotte Main Road to Rennel Sound due to active logging.   We went back to our resort, and they use the term Resort very lightly.  We were parked in one of only two RV sites, with a couple from Ontario about 2 feet away in their tent trailer. Behind our units stood old building, smaller than our outhouse it was the bathroom!  I’ll just finish this up by saying it was very rustic!  We did go for a little hike down town, and  walked along the beach.  Eagles, to my delight, were everywhere!

The village of Queen Charlotte does not wake up very early in the morning. We had to wait until 9 am to get gas, and then headed out the mainline to Rennel Sound. The trip to the sound is approximately 45 km, however, logging roads are not even close to what we have at home, and it took a few hours to get there, happily we were without rain, and the sites were spectacular. Only a few km into the trip we come around a corner to see our first glimpse at wildlife, a black bear and her cub sauntering along the road without a care in the world.  They didn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave the road, and when you see the thick undergrowth, you can understand why.

We did go past several active logging sites, however, being Saturday no one was working so we were not having to dodge logging trucks along the route. Gary was interested in the equipment parked along the road, and more interesting to me , were the size of trees. Once at Rennel Sound we realized that it was a good thing we had not planned to camp at 5 Mile beach.  It was full!  Boats, campers, tents, trailers in every nook and cranny.  We carried on down the road until we came to a reload where we stopped to talk to a fellow cutting firewood. He said that they come out in May, and don’t return home until September, and by the looks of it, most were parked at 5 mile beach doing the same thing.  We parked the truck at the reload and climbed down an embankment to the rocky beach below. Although it was not bright and sunny, it still was rain free, and such a beautiful spot to beach comb.

Back in the truck, and headed out passed the tent city at 5 Mile Beach and back to the Queen Charlotte Mainline road, driving north to  in Port Clements.  The 63 km drive took close to 3 hours!  We did make a couple stops along the way as well, but the road was extremely rough.  We did a short jaunt down an old mossy road to the Yakoun River. Even without the sun shining it was a spectacular place, like being in the middle of a fairy tale.  The moss covers everything here. Huge old stumps from logging past demonstrates that from the old, comes the new; plants and trees growing from the decaying stumps and blow down.

We also walked down to the Fish Hatchery at Marie Lake.  To our disappointment there was no one there, and we did not go out on the dock to the pens, but beautifully place.

Just several km from Port Clements we hit pavement, and with our increased speed, zipped right past the trailhead to the Golden Spruce!  Being only 6km from the Sunset RV & Campsite, we continue our way into Port Clements, and will go back tomorrow.   We stopped at the Tourist Information Centre/Logging Museum but it was only open for another 10 minutes so drove back in the direction of the campsite. We are getting the drift of island life, close early in the evening, open late in the morning!   On our way back we found a little pub along the ocean and stopped for supper and a jaunt out onto Rainbow Pier which juts out from the shore a quarter of a km into Masset Inlet. Beautiful views.  Back at the campsite we went for a short walk along a well maintained trail to the ocean.  A bird watching tower gave us spectacular views of the Yakoun River entering into the ocean, as well as cranes and other shore birds scurrying about looking for food in the mud of low tide.

The next morning we drove back to the Golden Spruce Trail Head. Only the dead tree top is visible hanging over the Yakoun River.  The tree had a genetic mutation that caused the needles to be gold instead of green. In 1997 Grant Hadwin, in protest of the logging industry, went to the site where the spruce stood. Although he did not fall the tree, he used a small power saw to put undercuts in it so as the next wind storm would have it topple over into the Yakoun River. He then proceeded to write a letter explaining his actions, and warning of the impending doom of the sacred and unusual tree, sending copies to MacMillan Bloedel, Green Peace among others. While travelling from Prince Rupert to Port Clements in his Kayak to attend his court case, he went missing, and to this day has not been found, dead or alive.  Apparently there is one other Golden Spruce on Graham Island, but the exact location is not being advertised.

Returning to Port Clements we visited the Logging Museum and spent several hours.  It’s a great stop; I suggest not missing it if going through.  Found the whole museum was set up in a way to make viewing everything so easily.  The first thing that caught my eye was a mounted albino Raven. It was, for a short period of time the mascot of Port Clements, with signs everywhere warning traffic to slow down and watch for the bird, as it didn’t seem to be very concerned with traffic. (I assume because albino animals, birds etc. are generally deaf).  In any case, it was not a vehicle that he succumbed to, but electrocution after, in plain view of many onlookers, it landed on a transformer.

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We really enjoyed seeing all the tools and pictures from logging of years gone by, among other interesting artifacts. Look at those fashions, AND the prices back from 1972 Simpson Sears Catalogue!

This was a pretty interesting find to say the least, I would have been pretty excited to find something like this beach combing!

Back on the road we traveled north to Masset, happily on a paved highway! I was extremely disappointed in both Masset and Old Masset.  There was not a lot to do in either place.  There were numerous galleries and studios that might have been interesting to wander through and shop, but everything was closed. We drove past the Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum which was housed in the restored hospital building built in 1914.  It too was closed.

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We headed out of town on the Tow Hill Road, north towards Agate Beach Campground located in Naikoon Provincial Park at the north tip of Graham Island. The trip is about 23 Km, but again, as the road was seemingly not maintained, it took quit sometime to reach our destination. The scenery was absolutely stunning though.

Once we picked our campsite, and met our neighbors we set out to explore.  For no particular reason we headed north along the beach.  It was windy, and cool, but knowing what type of weather we could encounter, we were dressed for it, and it was comfortable.   We ended up scrambling over rocks, and timing the waves so as not to get soaked as they smashed into the rocks below us. These rocks had at one point been part of Tow Hill, but now what stood above us was a sheer rock wall, with plants and moss clinging.  Once on the other side the walking was great on basically flat worn black rock, and we watched as the blow hole filled with water and shot meters into the air. We did join up with the blowhole viewpoint trail, and ended up walking back along the boardwalk, past the trail to Tow Hill, out to the parking lot, and walked most of the way back to the campground via the road.  We did cut through the bush to the beach the last km.  Our short before dinner walk turned into over 9.5 km. But after not being too active for the last several days, it was great to get out and hoof it!  Found many shells and rocks….some of which actually turn out to be agates!

It started raining around 8:30 pm and it was torrential rain all night, and into the morning. Our neighbors apologized for the noise they were making throughout the night as they were out trenching the water to flow around, instead of through their tent. We didn’t hear anything except the rain bucketing down on our roof. I woke bright and early, well it wasn’t bright, still raining…but it was early.  I headed out to explore the beach myself, again I headed north.    There were locals out, literally stomping around on the sand as the tide was out.   I walked towards one fellow, and he explained he was shocking the razor clams to move, and then would shovel them out.  He explained the process to me, and had been doing this for 40 years.  Down the beach a little further about 10 people were digging for clams in a not so traditional way.  They had a generator sitting on a high stand in the ocean, it was attached to a pressure washer and wand which they would stick into the sand and basically float up the razor clams!  It was interesting to say the least.  I was able to walk on the beach all the way to the blow hole, and  right around the point.  I found a couple live crabs in a pond which would have been great for breakfast, but I had no way of getting them back to camp alive! There were a few freshly dug holes in the sand as well, and on further inspection something, possibly an otter, had dug breakfast up!  The day before the rocks were as though they were alive with the water crashing against them, but this morning with a light rain falling and no wind it was like exploring a new place. Pools of water remained in a multitude of carved out bowls and crevices within the rocks, starfish clung to the sides of the boulders waiting for the waters, and food supply to return. Eagles were everywhere, the beach, rocks, perched in the trees and soaring overhead.

On returning to the camper Gary met me at the beach with a cup of coffee and we sat and enjoyed the views as the clouds started to dissipate and the sun was making an appearance.  After breakfast we walked south along the beach We did a fair amount of rock scrambling on this side as well, but when we got around the point, it was another stretch of beach.  I could have gone for miles more, but we were also going to hike Tow Hill, so headed back towards camp.

Hiking Tow Hill is pretty easy as it is mostly boardwalk, and a lot of steps.  Its a climb, but its easy going.  The first stop was a view point about ½ ways to the top. From there we were presented with beautiful views of the crashing waves onto North Beach.  The sun was almost shining!   We continued to the top where we were offered yet another stunning view of Agate Beach.

It was turning out to be a good-looking, sunny day.  Once back down we drove across the Heillen River bridge, parked and walked a couple km down that beach.  There were a few people out in the water trying their skill at surfing, and several campsites set up along the beach – just above the high tide mark.   It was a very successful beach combing, and hiking day.  I found many shells, some rocks, some agates and Gus found a bottle!  The cap was still intact, although there must have been a crack somewhere as the liquid was gone.  Not sure exactly where it came from, but writing on it made us believe it came across the ocean!

Once again, the rain started at 8:30 pm, and poured all night.  Thinking about our neighbours in their tent, we were thankful for our solid roof and walls. The next morning, August 22, we left Agate Beach and the soggy surroundings for Masset.  Again, even in the rain, the harbors are beautiful.

 

The rain continued until we headed southwest of Masset towards Tlell. By the time we reached our Campsite at Misty Meadows RV Park the sun was starting to shine!  It was still early enough to go on a hike, so headed out to the Pesuta Trailhead.    One sign at the start states its 5km out and then back… It was still early enough to go. The other sign, like all the other trails said there were bears in the area.   The tide was high, so we took the high trail which was a great deal of up and down and around but was relatively great hiking, and again the surroundings were so unlike what we are accustom to.  We got our first glimpse of the Pesuta before picking a spot to head over the bank to the river below.

Once we were able to get down onto the beach we came across a flock of mergansers sunning their selves, we got quite close before they headed into the water.  By the time we reached the wreck, the sun was shining bright, and we sat and enjoyed the views up and down the beach.  This log barge ran aground at the mouth of the Tlell River in 1928, and it amazed me how much still remained with the waves crashing into it, and the extreme humid conditions it endures year after year.

Once we headed back we did meet several other hikers, but because of the distance, and the density of the trails it’s not like other trails that you are continually in contact with others.  We were able to follow the Tlell River most of the way back as the tide was receding. There were millions of Jelly fish drying out in the mud and grass!

A few Km from the Trailhead it was getting very muddy, and tall wet grass which was  making it difficult to walk. We knew the trail was just above us, up a mossy cliff of rocks, and deadfalls so we started to climb.  Gary reached the top first, and helped me up over the last couple of rocks, then as we turned to continue our hike we spotted the bear!  Was a pretty big , shiny black bear only a couple hundred feet away, right in the middle of the trail! We yelled, waved our arms and jumped up and down until it ambled over the bank we had just climbed up!  By the time we walked to where he went over, we could see nothing over the bank, however, a couple more steps down the trail we came across some steaming bear scat! Between the fish, berries and massive slugs  I believe the bears are well fed here,  however, with that said I do worry about startling a bear, or coming across one with a cub, and we were literally feet away from coming up the bank right at his feet.

The hike took much long than what we had anticipated, and although we did some stopping, looking and enjoyed the hike, our technology stated that it was 16.4 km. round trip… not 10km like the sign said, however the sign about bears in the area pretty much hit the mark!  I found a video of someone on this hike.   They also  made a scramble for the top when it got muddy.

The next morning, as usual, we woke to the rain.  It wasn’t hard, more of a mist. But we donned our rain gear and hiked out to the beach from the campground.  Tide was out, so we were able to find many interesting things on the beach, and rocks.  Seem to be many more star fish in these tidal pools  than any other place we were.

After we roamed  on the beach and sand we wondered back to the camper, with over 13 km under our belt and headed for the ferry terminal to catch the next ferry from Skidegate to Alliford Bay (Sandspit) on Morsbey Island.  Along the way we ran across this balancing rock, not sure why the high tide and waves don’t knock it over!

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On arrival in Skidegate, we sat in the ferry line for only 1/2 hour before the next 20 minute sailing to Moresby Island.  Still the rain was pelting down  but a calm sailing across.

DSCN0230We drove the 15 km into Sandspit where we fueled up, and  headed for the tourist information centre which is located at the airport at the other end of town.    As with most of the tourist information centres we’ve encountered, it is more of a gift shop, but we did get a few questions answered. Sandspit is the only community of Moresby Island, with a population of approximately 1000 people.   We headed out on Copper Bay Mainline on what is considered another well maintained 21 kilometre active gravel logging road. I’m not sure what the not so well maintained logging roads are like,  but you could loose a small car in some places on this mainline!  Once again, the time limit to travel  21 km exceeded our estimated time of arrival, but all was good along the way. We went past Copper Bay, where I believe people move into cabins during fishing season.  Some of the cabins have been there for many years, but I think they are mostly all still used during fishing season.

Once we set up, which is pretty quick to do with a camper, we were off to explore the beach in the warm sun that finally made an appearance again.  We strolled quite a distance to the south, decided we would just go to the point and then return.  Our hike was cut a little short as we saw a black bear on the beach over turning rocks looking for food.  IMG_1595So as not to disturb him we turned around and headed back to the camper.  We grabbed a cocktail and headed back to a log on the beach to watch the sun, and storm clouds in the distance before heading in for supper.   When Gary had brought the cocktails out, he had seen a strange looking frog, so when we headed back to the camper we were looking on the ground so we didn’t step on it, and when I looked up there were two deer standing not 10 feet away from us.  They didn’t really care that we were there, and continued eating as we took a photo and headed the few steps left to the camper.

The next morning the sun was shining on us as we left for our hike along the beach to the north.  Again so many interesting things to do and see.  Yes, we ended up doing some rock scrambling again, but it wasn’t too bad.  We were going to go around the point and see if we could find Secret cove without driving to the trail head, but alas, the bush was so dense, and the tide was coming in – which eventually would cover the entire rock point we were walking on.  We never did get to Secret Cove, but we did find some interesting things along the way.

So came the time to head back towards Alliford Bay to catch the next ferry back to Graham island.  Wasn’t raining on the way back, but rain seemed to be everywhere around us.  A fellow who had worked the ferry for over 20 years said he has never seen a ship as big as this in the harbor off of Queen Charlotte.  Its called The World.  You can purchase rooms, and sail around the world on it.   Check it out here .

Once we got back into Queen Charlotte we went straight to the campground on Cemetery Road.  We didn’t realize there were only  6 spots at the Hayden Turner campground which is run by the municipality.  We turned around at the cemetery gate, and on our way back out a couple stopped us and asked if we wanted to share their spot!  So we backed in to this wonderful spot among the old growth trees, and went for a walk out to Bear Skin Bay and then through the cemetery.  So many people put so much thought into how they celebrate their loved ones.  Or maybe, it is those that had died that made the special requests for their place of rest.

On the morning of the 25th I woke up early to a very angry Eagle screeching!  I got out of bed, dressed, and went for another walk around Bear Skin Bay.  Although it was still raining, I enjoyed the peace and quiet the morning brought, other than the angry eagle, there was no noise except the lapping of the waves.

After breakfast we drove  back  Skidegate to the Spirit Lake Trail Head.  It is a short 3km walk, on a very well groomed trail. There was  1 other vehicle in the parking lot when we left, so a quiet hike I would have thought.  There were some beautiful carvings at the trailhead.  The Wasco is a giant sea monster, half wolf and half killer whale that had the ability to move on both land and in the sea.   I have to admit I loved reading the myths the Haida’s had written about at many of the stops we made.  They are truly entertaining, and imaginative.  If you are interested you can read some of them here.

As we neared the loop end, and going to join back up with the original trail we spotted another sign …  It didn’t give any distances, and we knew it wasn’t going to be a hard packed trail, but I don’t think we expected what we actually ended up going through.  We were up and down over deadfalls, walking through marshy wetlands, going up and down steep banks, and at times really hunting for that next ribbon to show us the way.  A couple times we heard people behind us, but then there was nothing, we thought they had turned around.   We came to a hill (bank) that had ropes to assist a person down, and we were thinking about turning around when out of no where the 3 girls that had been behind us showed up.  They were going to push on because “it couldn’t be far now”.  We didn’t have to be at the ferry until 8 that night, so we too pushed on.  I have to admit, now, the views were spectacular.  Although now we could see we were a long ways away from the camper!   We came out of the bush across the highway from the Museum, and walked back to the trailhead along the highway.   I was very thankful that the rain didn’t start until we were just about off the hill!   Adventure, that’s what its all about!

We stopped at ate, a well deserved lunch, at JAGS!  It was great food, and very hospitable people.  A Ma and Pop and kids operation, which are few and far between.  Only complaint is I thought I had earned an ice cold beer….and they didn’t serve alcohol. In any case we found a spot to pull over along the highway, it was actually a gravel parking lot next to the helicopter pad for medivacs.  A fellow stopped and told us that we couldn’t set up camp there, and when we explained we were catching the 10 o’clock ferry, he figured we’d be alright to stay there until then.  Sat on the bank overlooking the ocean, and The World Cruise ship, wondering why they were still sitting there when the weather was so poor!  We got onto the ferry at 9:10 and we went to our sleeping berth, which was extremely comfortable.  There was even time to each have a long hot shower before we left the terminal…which I’m sure was easier than trying to shower while going over waves.  I think by the time the lights of Skidegate disappeared, I was already asleep.

Arriving in Prince Rupert around 6 a.m. and nothing opened, we went to the Walmart parking lot, and had a great snooze before reserving a spot at the RV Campground again.  Although we felt we had slept well on the ferry, we both slept another couple hours!  Then it was time to stock up, an get organized for  the Work Channel for our fishing adventure.  Stay tuned for Part 2 – Fishing!

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3 Responses to Part 1 – Haida Gwaii

  1. M Wilson says:

    Loved your adventure, such great memories and amazing photo’s…

  2. mlwilson12 says:

    Loved your adventure, wonderful memories and amazing photo’s…

  3. Loni says:

    Great pics Kathie! Looking forward to part 2!

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