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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.


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.



Their boats were carved from a single tree:


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:


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




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


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


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


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.


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.


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 #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)


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:


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.



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


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


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)

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