A Travellerspoint blog

August 2017

Haida Gwaii #3 of #3 - Our time on the Islands

Haida_Culture, Totem_Poles, Rain, Beaches, Hikes, Deer

rain 19 °C

Part 1 of this entry covers getting to and from the island. Part 2 covers our guest house. This is our impression of the islands themselves.

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Our friends George and Karmen Reid, plus Debra Duncan joined us on this visit. A short, three day visit cannot give a person more than an overview of these amazing islands. We spent all our time on Graham Island. We never set foot on Moresby to the south. Moresby Island contains the National Park, Gwaii Haanas.

Prior to the arrival of the white man these islands were home to about 30,000 Haida, who lived of the land and the sea. They built their villages along the shore, and raised totem poles to tell their family stories.

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Their boats were carved from a single tree:

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The culture dates back 15,000 years. Today there are about 2,500 Haida on the island. The entire population is just over 5,000.

You can book tours of historic sites, or trips to remote beaches, all guided. Kayak trips into the National Park on Moresby are available. The prices for these are not cheap. On our limited budget we were restricted to things we could get to on our own.

From Skidegate and the ferry terminal, we drove 112 kilometers north, to Masset. First we noted the number of deer along the road. We began to count them and by the time we completed our journey north, we were up to 24. We encountered a lovely black bear as well, although he refused to pose for a picture. A little later in our trip we learned that the deer were introduced in the 1930's and are now a plague on the island, with numbers estimated to be close to 200,000 and a sever effect on the ecology. They eat every spruce seedling as it comes out of the ground affecting the forest future.

As we travelled about, we held a contest amongst the 5 of us as to how many deer we would see before we finished our visit. Karmen won with her guess of 74. The prize was $5.

Masset has several good restaurants. We had a memorable meal at Bud's Bar and Grill. Really good pizza, Chicago deep dish style.

We toured Old Masset, where the street signs are in Haida and shaped like canoes:

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The Golden Spruce Trail provided some good pictures of ancient trees and people in the rain:

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Moss grows so thick on the tree branches that it causes them to break off. This moss is very heavy:

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We came upon this tree of bird houses in Port Clements:

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In Masset, this is the public hitch-hiking bench, carved out of cedar:

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On our last day we visited the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate, where we all learned about the culture of the Haida. We watched a totem pole being carved, and viewed a pole carved in 1978 by Haida carver Bill Reid. The frog played an important role in Haida Culture. The poles were carved and then left to rot into nature. At 40 years old the Bill Reid pole is showing significant weathering.

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As we had time to use up before our ferry ride home we did a 5 kilometer hike up to Spirit Lake. The first one and a half kilometers was uphill so we took a rest at a picnic table at the top.

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We ended our day with a special meal. Supper with the Kings, in Queen Charlotte City. This is a husband and wife who host meals in their home. It was a lovely experience and a great way to finish off our stay on the islands.

Since we travel on a budget, this was a splurge for us. It is relatively expensive to visit Haida Gwaii, and to get to the really good spots will cost more money. If you can afford it you would need at least a week here to see enough to truly understand the scope of these islands

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 05:53 Archived in Canada Tagged haida_gwaii Comments (1)

Haida Gwaii #2 of #3- The Copper Beech Guest House, Masset

Susan Musgrave, Poet, Author, and so much more, Faustine of the golden hair, an amazing guest house

rain 14 °C

I met Susan Musgrave, back in 1993, when I took her creative writing course at Camosun College in Victoria. It was quite the experience meeting this woman of so many talents. She taught her class well and inspired us to be creative, which was what it was all about. During this time, we all met Stephen, the famous bank robber husband as well. Susan had the whole class to her house, the one with the tree growing through it, on the Saanich Peninsula for a 'grad' party, which was as unique an experience as most of us in her class had up till then.

Her love for Haida Gwaii is evident in her book "A Taste of Haida Gwaii", which I would have loved to have gotten a personal autograph in. I browsed the book while there, and will buy it when I get home as a reminder of our stay.

So, when we had the opportunity to book this guest house for our visit it was a bonus that Susan owned it. Unfortunately, she was not there for our visit, but hey, she was off doing a writing workshop, down in Victoria. It would have been fun to see her again had she been in residence. Whether she would remember me or not is another thing...she must have given hundreds of classes and I am one of many who attended them. If she can remember my short story, "The strange death of Juan Valdez" then she has quite a memory.

As for the guest house: This house is quite simply an amazing peek into the mind of Susan. She is a person of multi talents, with a semi-outrageous personality. The décor suits her to a tee. Eclectic mixes of colour, texture and comfort. The place is loaded with books, many by authors such as Margaret Atwood, Douglas Copeland, who wrote or edited some of their work in this place.

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Famous authors have spent many hours here and I can imaging conversations they must have had. Under a previous owner, the place was a get-away spot for former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife Maggie.

The house sits on the edge of the Masset fishing boat harbour, There are 5 guest rooms, and Jenny and I had Garden View, Deb had the Retreat, and George and Karmen had the Chadwick Room. Our host, Faustine, was amazing. Welcoming, intelligent, charming. Over the course of our stay, all of us had great conversations with her, and her breakfasts were amazing. She provided us with tip after tip of things to do and see while on Haida Gwaii.

Faustine is still undecided on what she wants to do with her life, but her indecision on the next steps in her life are just part of the process. It took me 55 years to finally figure out that working was bad for my health, so I quit, and took up travel instead. :)

On our second night the weather cleared long enough for us to have a fire in the Chinemea and supper on the deck. Supper was a pre-cooked chicken from the Coop and a Caesar Salad, with at least two bottles of wine, maybe three consumed with it.

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Rooms at the inn are well maintained, comfortable in the extreme and reasonably priced. The décor is other worldly to some extent, but the emphasis is on comfort and that is delivered in spades. A 4 star rating (out of 5)

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 18:16 Archived in Canada Tagged susan_musgrave copper_beech_guest_house Comments (0)

Haida Gwaii #1 of #3 - BC Ferry Service

Night sailings, August 21 and August 24, high cost, relatively poor service, relatively high costs

rain 17 °C

If you want to go to Haida Gwaii, and we did really want to go there, you have to take a ferry. It is not easy, nor inexpensive, to get to Haida Gwaii. The islands are 200 kilometers off the coast of British Columbia (see map)

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The ferry is run by the BC Ferry Corporation, which does not have a very good reputation.

Our five intrepid travellers, George and Karmen Reid, Debra Duncan and Jenny and I planned this months ago.

We arranged to store our trailers at the Prince Rupert R/V Park, for $15 a night ($45 for three nights). The plan was to take just one car and the five of us. We booked our trip back in February, as we had reservations a the Copper Beech Guest House, in Masset, and needed to ensure our arrival.

Our total cost for the two ferry trips was $1,321.50, broken down into the following: Car $336.50, five passengers $475.00, and cabins, $510.00.

It is interesting to note that these are night sailings, so we check out of the R/V park, store our trailers and extra vehicle by 11:00am. The ferry sails at 10:00pm, and we can't board until 8:00pm, so we have 9 hours to kill just before boarding. We did a 5 k hike to Butze Falls, had lunch in downtown Prince Rupert, wandered the town for the afternoon. We had supper at Dolly's Fish and Chips, down in the historic Cow Bay part of town, and badda bing, badda boom, it was time to board the ferry.

This is our ship, the Northern Adventure:

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We boarded at 8:00pm, got our assigned rooms and promptly turned in for the night, as arrival at Skidegate is 6:00am. As we were walking down the hall, a veteran of this crossing suggested we get our showers over with before the 10:00pm departure. Wise words. We showered, met George and Karmen on deck to watch the rest of the loading and the departure. Deb turned in for the night. This ferry has only one set of doors, at the rear of the ship, for loading. We watched in fascination as a full sized semi and trailer backed down the 200 foot, one lane ramp onto the ship.

Once we sailed, on time, we found out why you shower while the ship is tied to the dock. The shower stall is small, and the ship rocked and rolled, all night long. The engine is a bit noisy, so sleep is difficult. It didn't help when they made an announcement at 11:30pm that so-and-so needed to go to the car deck to move his vehicle.

At 5:00am you are awakened to get ready to depart the ship, at about 5:45am. We disembarked, in the dark onto Haida Gwaii, in the rain no less. We quickly made our way to Queen Charlotte City and waited for a breakfast restaurant to open at 7:00am. Our guest house has a check-in time of 3:00pm so we have most of a day to use before we get our rooms.

Return Trip: August 24, 11:00pm sailing, 5:00am arrival.

We were out of our guest house at 11:00am and spent a lovely day working our way back towards Skidegate, from Masset. We walked on beaches, had a shore lunch, hiked a great 5 kilometer trail, visited a Haida Heritage site, watched a totem pole being carved, checked out Haida boats, made from a single tree, went to a pub for a drink, then a supper at Dinner with the Kings...lovely. This dinner will be covered in more detail in post #3.

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Frogs play roles in their lives and this one is on a pole carved in 1978, by Haida legendary carver, Bill Reid:

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We boarded this time at 9:00pm, departed at 11:00pm, and booted it across the 225 kilometer route to arrive at 4:45am. It was almost not worth it to try to sleep, for just a 5 hour crossing. Many locals forego the cabins and sleep on the floor in sleeping bags.

Once we arrived back in Prince Rupert, we dropped our buddy Debra Duncan back at the ferry terminal for her sailing back to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. We then proceeded up to the R/V park, where George and Karmen picked up their Airstream and promptly headed off for a two day stay in Stewart BC

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Jenny and I went to McDonalds for breakfast (the only thing open at 5:00am in Prince Rupert) to await daytime. We had to reload our car and ready TaJ for the road. We scooted out of there at 7:00am and ended the day in Smithers BC.

As a lot of people in BC say, there is not much you can do with ferries, but imagine life without them. A necessary evil. Wiothout the Northern Adventure we would not have made it to Haida Gwaii.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 17:34 Archived in Canada Tagged haida_gwaii bc_ferries prince_rupert skidegate Comments (1)

Aug 15, 16, 17 - Stewart BC, and Hyder AK

Grizzly_Bears, Glaciers

rain 13 °C

After our couple of days in Dease Lake, and our trip out the Telegraph Creek Road, it was time to move on to Stewart BC. The 450 kilometer drive was uneventful. The road is narrow, winding, but well paved.

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With very little reason to stop along the way, we were in Stewart by mid-afternoon and settled into the River's Edge Campground, a full service r/v park. $41 per night, spotty internet. It did have showers, which we needed desperately after 5 nights of dry camping, and a laundromat...we were running out of clean underwear :)

We did stop for a picture of TaJ with the Bear Glacier, on the road into Stewart.

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Our arrival also brought the rain. It rained pretty well our entire time in Stewart, sometime heavily. First night we had pizza in town, at the only pizza spot in Stewart. We'd rate it an 8 out of 10.

The next morning was our first visit to Hyder and the Fish Creek Boardwalk to see the Grizzly Bears feeding on salmon. The river has a large run of pink and chum salmon and regularly attracts bears to feed on the ample fish in the river. Here is a shot of the boardwalk, which is 15-20 feet above the river. The boardwalk holds up to 400 people, safely above the fray below, although we understand from the rangers that people have been stupid enough to leave the boardwalk in an attempt to get a "better" picture of the bears.

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Selfie on boardwalk:

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This is what the excitement is all about. This is a 4-5 year old male grizzly, a really adept fish catcher. He caught 5 salmon in just over a half hour, and ate one of the right in front of us. The crunching is audible to all on the viewing platform.

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We went to the boardwalk 5 times in our two days there, just to have a looksee. The best viewing times are early morning and evening. In between we took a drive up the road to see the glacier on the Hyder side. On the way up this determined little bird held us up for 5 minutes. Jenny had to get out of the car and finally shoo her away

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The road is steep and winds along cliffs past abandoned and active gold, silver and copper mines. This glacier is near the top of the road. As you can see we were pretty well socked in with rain.

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On our other trips to the bear viewing boardwalk, we saw a female grizzly and a black bear mother with twin cubs.

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As the rains continued, the water level in Fish Creek began to rise and the bears abandoned the river for the time being, as the water was murky and deeper than normal, making catching more difficult. We spent our time at the local museum, learning a bit of the history of the community. Local people live on logging, mining and tourism, and are deeply affected by changes in government policy that affects their livelihoods. There was much talk that politicians in Victoria, who, for the most part, have no idea of what life is like in the northern 50% of the province, where almost all of the economy is derived from natural resources like logging and mining, make decisions that affect them.

The town is lovely with moss hanging from the trees.

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Hyder AK is slowly sliding into oblivion, with less than 50 people living there.

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Eagles abound in the rivers;

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These old cars are reminiscent of earlier days and make a nice scene in downtown Stewart

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We departed Stewart on the morning of August 18, heading 475 kilometers south, to Prince Rupert, where we met up with out old travel buddies, George and Karmen Reid, who we met in Newfoundland, in 2013, and have hooked up with on the road 6 times now. Their Airstream is a real cutie:

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Our next adventure will see us park TaJ and head over to Haida Gwaii for three days. The next blog entry will cover this jaunt to the home of the Haida.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 11:52 Archived in Canada Tagged salmon grizzly_bears glaciers stewart hyder Comments (1)

Aug 14 - The Amazing Drive to Telegraph Creek

Wow!!

semi-overcast 20 °C

We awoke at Water's Edge Campground to a lovely morning. Our goal for the day is to drive the 112 kilometer Telegraph Creek Road. This gravel road is reported to be one of the most interesting drives in the country. It follows the Stikine River into the wilderness along a route that an intrepid businessman had tried to string a telegraph line through to Siberia, and hence on to Europe. When the first trans-Atlantic cable was completed in the 1860's this route was abandoned. Later the Hudson Bay Company put in a trading post, and ultimately, a telegraph line to the Yukon was punched through from here in 1900, after the Yukon gold rush was underway.

It lived up to its reputation completely.

The first 80 kilometers were so-so, a gravel road in prime summer condition. Smooth, like concrete almost. We made good time, covering this stretch in less than an hour. I love the challenge of driving, so this road was an enjoyable drive for me, and I kept us close to 90 kph most of the way, through curves and light hills. The Honda Pilot is much more nimble on this type of road than I would have thought.

From 80 kilometers in, the road changes, dramatically. Here is a shot of our GPS, showing the twists and turns ahead.

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At the bottom of this switchback was a one lane bridge over the Tula River.

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10 kilometers farther on the road crosses a lava promontory, about 100 feet wide and 400+ feet above the river valleys below. Two separate rivers meet at the end of this promontory, down a very steep, 1 1/2 lane road along the edge of a cliff. Not for the faint of heart!

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You would think the excitement was over at this point, but there is still 25 kilometers to go to the end of the road, this time up an 8 kilometer long piece of road perched on the edge of a cliff. In some spots they carved off a ledge from the rock outcroppings to fit the road around. Amazing...up to 700 foot almost vertical drop to the valley below. Driving this was one of the highlights of my retired life.

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This second half of the road, only about 30 kilometers took an hour to drive. The steepness of some of the stretches was amazing, in some places it was a 30% grade, where highway grades rarely exceed 10%

There are several outfitters along the road that take hunters and campers on horseback into the wilderness. Much of the year their horse are allowed to run free and it is not unusual to see them along the road. At this time of year, the horses are all rounded up and being used for their primary purpose.

At the end of the road is Telegraph Creek, now mainly a first nations town. The old townsite, which once was home to several hundred people is slowing melting into the landscape.

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The trip back out was almost as exciting. Seeing it all from the opposite direction brought home the beauty of this place. If you are in the Cassiar, and you want to see something unique, this is the road. If it is wet and rainy, it would be extremely difficult, but dry, like it was for us, it was simply amazing.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 11:20 Archived in Canada Tagged telegraph_creek_road Comments (0)

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