We sailed at 10:30am from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii, arriving at 5:00pm into Skidegate Terminal on the north island where we headed through the town of Queen Charlotte to Hadyn Turner Municipal campground for the evening where made dinner then went on a beach walk, followed by a campfire.
Next morning, we drove to Spirit Lake Trail, where we hiked with a couple of local guides who were informative with regards to the fauna and the trial history. Legend has it that Spirt Lake is said to be the home of a Sea Wolf. When we arrived at Spirit Lake we found a Bald Eagle sat on a pole shivering, it did not look well!
After the hike, we drove through the town of Skidegate then travelled up to Tlell which is about a 45-minute drive north from Skidegate, we camped at Misty Meadows campground located in Naikoon Provincial Park for the evening.
Early next morning, we went back to Skidegate to attend Skidegate Days where we had breakfast in the local community hall. Then visited the displays on show.
Around noon it started raining so we jumped in the truck and headed north to Port Clements. We just drove through, but utilized their dump station facility. On the way, we saw our first deer, these deer are only about 1m/3ft tall. They are not indigenous, as they were brought in by the European settlers as a meat source. As there are no natural predators the deer have multiplied, these deer have done vast amount of damage to the local forests. There is a program in place to thin them out and eradicate them in certain locations. Squirrels and rats on the Island also are not indigenous. There is a big drive the eliminate the rat population as they are destroying certain local bird populations.
We then continued up to Masset and Old Masset. We stopped at the Masset information center which was also the western Mile Zero for the Yellowhead Trail. Again, just a quick drive through to see the lay of the land before heading to Tow Hill which is east along the north coast.
The Haida have just raised an new House Pole (Haida equivalent of Totem Pole) at the West end of Rose Spit, this is where the Haida had their origins, as told by a placard placed here.
We decided to do the Tow Hill hike and visit the blow hole. The tide was out so the blow hole was not blowing, so it kind of sucked LOL.
From here we took the trail that led into Merkwood, Stewart thought it was like Lord of the Rings. The trail took us up to the top of Tow Hill, where Alaska was visible in the distance even though visibility was not that great.
Local legend say’s there was a giant spider that also lived here, now I know where Shelob went after being stabbed by Sam (Lord of the Rings).
After we came down we went to Agate Beach and found a campsite for the next two nights. While there we walked the beach where Catherine picked a bucket load of Agate’s to take with her, I’m not sure where she has hidden them in the truck from me????
The second evening there the sunset was very nice with some interesting colours happening.
Not only is Agate Beach well known for its Agate’s (a semi-precious rock), families flock there in the summer to catch crabs with nets. We watched one family with 6 children all running into the water, as the tide was coming in, with their nets, some luckier than others. People were also digging for clams, as this is one of the few beaches we came across without a Red Tide warning. Watching all the activity reminded Catherine of family holidays spent at Qualicum Bay.
Another day we set off down the beach, and when it started to rain we headed for the shelter of the forest. In the forest, we discovered what looked to be an outdoor church. As we would later out find some of the locals had made the church like area and it is used for weddings and other ceremonies.
On our way back to Charlotte we stopped to walk All You Can Eat Beach, this was recommended to us by Sharon and Bill, what a fantastic beach and some really cool carvings and décor located just along the path to the beach.
From there we made our way to Moon Over Naikoon Bakery. This bakery was hidden off the road and was such a surprise to find it housed in a converted school bus. What a great job they had done with the conversion, all the baking is done in the bus and they serve lunch. We had coffee and tea and of course a famous Cinny bun, it was delicious.
Once reaching Massett we parked up and took a stroll, there are so many murals painted on the sides of the buildings. One of the most striking murals was on the Post Office building, this mural was done for Canada’s 150th birthday. There were lots of wood carvings by local artists and poles, the Haida are a very artistic people proud of their skills.
We walked down to the marina area and watched a local fishing boat arrive with its catch, 10,000 lbs of live Dungeness Crab, yum, yum. Next stop was Haida Art, a local art gallery and gift store. There were two local men working on their carvings in the gallery and the owner Lisa White was very informative about the artist’s and their work, many of whom are her relatives. Catherine purchased her Raven bracelet there.
While up at Agate Beach we ran into a couple we had meet at the ferry terminal in Prince Rupert, Rick and Arlene. They were busy collecting rocks and drift wood to take home to the interior of British Columbia, a great couple. They shared with us a great wild camping location just outside of Massett. Very quiet and relaxing. In the morning however we had a little knock on our door, an older lady had tried to take her two wheel drive truck down to the beach and was stuck and needed to be pulled back onto the track and Stewart obliged. Nice to have emergency rescue equipment, nice not to have to use it for ourselves.
Back on the road again and next stop was Port Clements, here we visited the local museum, which was full of interesting artifacts, none that were too terribly old, as Port Clements unlike other settlements on Haida Gwaii was only settled in the early 1900’s. Port Clements was a logging town in its day, now the logging has all but stopped and the town is finding other sources of employment. Of interest in the museum, was the display of the Albino raven, the only one known to have been on the island, and for folklore sake, a sign was erected where the raven was known to frequent so visitors and locals alike were aware and could be cautious not to hit it.
In years gone by the Cannery’s would use Chinese labour for processing the fish. When this became mechanised the machine that replaced the Chinese labour was called the Iron Chink, obviously this was all before political correctness.
Another interesting piece of history was found in the yard of the museum, this was a Russian under-water detection device.
Our next stop was a hike into the forest, up the Anvil Trail. The trail gave examples of different stages a forest goes through after a disturbance. The island is prone to extreme winds and the trees are easily uprooted. Some of the trees on the trail had been chopped to allow passage, however most fallen trees are left where they have fallen to help with the re-generation of the forest.
Across the road from the trail head, on the beach side we made our camp for the night, just us and the wide-open ocean. Sadly it rained and we were not able to have a campfire.
In the morning as we were packing up our friends Rick and Arlene drove up, they had camped just north of us and had taken an early morning beach hike to beached ship wreck, which was our next stop. We walked for miles along the beach before realizing we missed the path to take us to the wreck, so we had to be satisfied to observe from a distance, there was a river that ran parallel to the beach and with the vegetation we hadn’t noticed it. It was an extremely long hike that day, about 15 km.
We rewarded ourselves with a beer at a local Queen Charlette pub. While at the pub, Rick and Arlene unexpectedly showed up to meet some friends, one of which was the owner of the pub, lucky for us, he was full of information and was able to help us find a local restaurant we had been trying to contact, he googled the restaurant and made the phone call for us, so we were able to enjoy an authentic Haida meal our last night before getting on the ferry. Cell service on Haida Gwaii was terrible to say the least, but who needs to be on the phone when there is so much to see and do. From here we found a remote camping spot for our last night on the island where we had a fire.
Stewart had read about a restaurant that served traditional Haida food and wanted to go. We had some challenges finding the restaurant, as it was in a private home and poorly marked from the road. The owner of the pub knew exactly who we were looking for and made the phone call for us to have dinner at Roberta’s place, not the name of the restaurant. Everything served at the meal, which was a set menu, was from the land or sea. There was bannock, halibut, salmon, venison, kelp, roe, sea asparagus, soup, cranberry sauce, Native herb tea – similar to chamomile and dessert was a lemon cake with freshly picked wild raspberries. I am sure I have forgotten some of the items, as the meal was plentiful and very delicious. Roberta prepared the meal in her home with the help of some of her family. On the night we were there, there were 20 other people having dinner with us. Roberta does not have a liquor license, but you are able to bring your own bottle of wine, many did, however we did not.
On the way to Roberta’s house we called at Balance Rock.
After dinner, we headed to the ferry terminal for 10:30pm overnight ferry back to the mainland.
One of the nicest things about being on a small island, is everything is close and you can accomplish a lot in one day. Graham Island, only has 140 KM of paved roads and we managed to drive over 400 KM, during our week-long visit. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to go over to Sandspit, on one of the other islands, nor did we have time to take a tour of Gwaii Hanas, the protected islands to the south where the Watchmen take you on tours. We will be back to Haida Gwaii as it has so much to see and do and is so peaceful. A lot of the magic of Haida Gwaii is it has not been commercialized. There are tourist facilities, they are basic, but the people are friendly and so accommodating. No sense going if you want McDonalds and Starbucks as its not there. We are hopeful that the locals will embrace their down to earth way of life and say no to massive development.
Next: Prince Rupert, BC to Dawson City, YT.