Man have we ever done a lot in the last 8 days. I will cover the highlights in this blog, but know that even with how long it is we had to cut some things and split it into 2 posts (JB: like it matters, no one will read your drivel anyway!) Let me start off by saying that Haida Gwaii is an amazing place. I believe it is truly unique in the world and Jenn and I have wondered aloud several times if moving up here would be a good idea. Of course, it’s been sunny and 18 – 20 degrees almost the whole time which is simply unheard of. The rain has finally come back today and reminded us that it rains 300 + days (or so it seems) a year here 😊 .
I encourage everyone reading this to get up here at some point in your life. This should be on everyone’s bucket list. So without further adieu, here is the Haida Gwaii MEGA POST part 1!
When Jenn and I landed off the ferry we immediately drove to Port Clements to see our great friends Terreena, Stan, Lyle and Leigh-Anne. Three of the four grew up on Haida Gwaii so this was something of a reunion trip for them and Jenn. Stan was the only first timer in the group and it was fun watching him take in the beauty of this place with his camera. We had a quick bite, lots of laughs, then set up our campsite and prepared for our adventures.
We had some jam-packed schedules to see all the highlights of the islands. Our first adventure was a 10KM (round trip) hike to the beach to see a shipwreck. The Pesuta was a timber carrier that went down along the coast in 1928, and has slowly been disappearing back into the environment. The scenery out here goes from wild west coast forest to insanely long stretches of sandy beaches. The pictures really don’t do it justice, and there was no way we could capture things like the Eagles, ravens, and dragon flies that are everywhere. And the sound of this place, OMG! The ocean breaking on the rocks, the eagles chatting with one another, the ravens cackling at you, and the wind through the trees. It’s just simply awesome. At one point we looked up and saw 5 bald eagles flying overhead. The only image I managed to capture was on my phone at max zoom so you’ll just have to trust me. (JB: I TOLD you to bring your Nikon, you dumbass.)
One of the advantages of living here is that you can drive on the beaches. And, everyone seems to know each other. So we were not at all surprised when 2 trucks met us on the beach and they happened to be old friends of Leigh-Anne and Lyle. We had a good laugh that of all the locals, almost no one had ever walked out to see the Pesuta. (JB: you mean we could have driven? That would have been way more fun cause you didn’t have a backpack, supplies, food, or enough water. Some hiker you are.)
After the hike, our friends went to their B&B to shower. Since Jenn and I have no shower, we drove to the beach for some relaxation and a quick sponge bath. I mentioned that everyone knows everyone here right? Cause as we were about to get clean, a car pulled in and out popped our friend Alan. Stevie is a bit of star out here on the Island so everyone knows where to look for us 😊 .
After a quick visit and de-odorizing (JB: you guys really do stink you know!) we joined our friends for a scrumptious dinner at the Haida House in Tlell. The Haida House is a top notch restaurant that is 100% Haida owned, and the food is excellent. We were very excited to have local salmon, and the food was so good (and reasonably priced) that Jenn and I booked a return visit for later in the trip.
The next day, Jenn and I moved our campsite up to Masset, the town where Jenn grew up. In fact, we met our gang at The Ground coffee shop, which just happens to be in the house Jenn and her parents lived in. It’s always a treat to have a coffee and a nibble in Jenn’s old living room, or buy a shirt from her mom’s old bedroom!
Our next stop was North Beach & Tow Hill. Tow Hill is a small mountain located on the north end of the island, and is the anchor for North Beach which is a ribbon of sandy decadence that stretches for more than 10 KM. Side bar, if you’ve ever been to Long Beach on Vancouver island, you will know why we chuckle when they call it long. In comparison to here it’s like the kids beach 😊 . The hike up Tow Hill is a bit steep and somewhat sketchy for dogs, so I took Saela and Pepper to the beach while the rest of the gang hiked to the top. (OB: Don’t believe him, he’s just lazy!) Jenn got some excellent shots from the top.
After the hike up, we all walked out along the beach, or at least we started to. We were cut off by more friends in their trucks 😊 . Man I love this place. We all hopped in to the vehicles and drove 6 km further up the beach. I know for sure it was 6 km because our friend Neena was doing a 6K run. Of course we aren’t sure if Mike – her husband – stretched her a little further than that! Jenn and I hopped in with Derek and Christina, and Saela immediately made a new best friend!
We all went our separate ways for dinner and Jenn and I had the best Chinese food in Masset (JB: dumbass, it’s the only Chinese food in Masset!) By bed time, I believe we had broken our dogs:
The next morning, Jenn was in the washroom and heard the following exchange:
Child: Look mom, I’m washing the shower
Mother: What are you doing? Stop that……. Give me my Loufa!
OB: Jenn was certainly amused. She was so amused she left her damned cell phone in the washroom! That’s twice now with the phone…
Jenn: Hey, I remembered and got it before we left for the day.
JB: I think we need to get you a fanny pack!
We took the dogs to the beach for the morning to do some agate hunting. Agates are volcanic based crystalline rocks that when polished are bright and shiny, and they are ALL OVER the beaches here. A popular past time is to go “agate hunting” on the beaches. You will see people slowly wandering the tranquil stretches of sand and rock with their heads pointed down to their feet. Jenn was saying that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been gone from here for 5 minutes, 5 years, or 5 decades, if you’re back home on the beaches, your head is down and you’re agate hunting. Needless to say we have collected more than our fair share! More importantly, we discovered something on the beaches of Haida Gwaii we never expected. Our prairie raised rescue dog Pepper is completely at home and in love with the ocean. We have never seen her so mellow before, she absolutely loves it here.
Our next set of stops were for the local food truck, and then a visit with Miche, a great old family friend of Jenn’s mom and one of the most lovely ladies I’ve met. She is originally from Quebec just like my dad, so we always enjoy sharing stories of what it was like way back when. Of course she has been a fixture on Haida Gwaii for over 40 years now. We lucked into a fun visit and a few warm cookies, fresh from the oven. Miche is a great cook!
By this time our gang was up in Masset, so we all decided to hit the local Masset Museum. This isn’t just any museum, it’s a small house with artifacts from the history of the town, including the time when Jenn, Leigh-Anne, and Terreena lived here. We had a riot looking at old school photos, family history, and pictures of Sam’s (Jenn’s stepdad) tow truck and Chicken Shack. Yes, Jenn’s family once owned a Chicken Shack. They have also over the years owned a bakery, a pizza place, and an automotive shop! The caretaker of the museum said she had never heard so much laughing in the museum 😊 . There were many memories and photos of Terreena’s family as her grandfather was the first doctor here, so her family has quite a history, and her brother lives here still. His name is Shaun, but most people around here know him as Bonehead. Thankfully, he is well known in the community, as Jenn’s driver’s license had fallen out of her pocket (OB: maybe that fanny pack IS a good idea….) and the people who run the museum were able to track Shaun down. He picked it up for Jenn and got it back to us safely. Thanks, Bonehead!
Terreena and Stan had plans for the evening, so the rest of us went for supper on the beach. On our way to the grocery store, Jenn and Leigh-Anne saw a friend of theirs drive by with 2 huge dogs in the back. One of the dogs is called Handsome Gus (he’s Instagram famous!), so the ladies started calling out to him as the vehicle drove by…. But the truck didn’t stop. We found out later that the driver was thinking “damned tourists!” Turns out other folks have randomly learned his dogs name and say hi all the time, so he didn’t stop and missed a chance to see some old friends 😊 . We finished the evening with hamburgers on the beach and visiting with another good friend, Melanie.
Tag in Jenn cause this post is looooong…
The following day was the last day that Terreena, Stan, Leigh-Anne, and Lyle were on the Islands. In the morning, 4 of us zipped down to Skidegate to visit the Longhouse Gift Shop to find matching hoodies for the three ladies. Terreena and Leigh-Anne had been scoping out the other gift shops along the way, but hadn’t found any that we loved. So, Leigh-Anne and I were on a serious mission to find them! And – success! We found Haida Watchmen hoodies in the right style and they are super comfy. Insert requisite matching shirt group photo on the beach:
We also stopped at the Balance Rock on our way back north from Skidegate. It was BUSY! Normally there may be one or two cars, but, this time there were several vans full of people. I had to take a picture of all the people there to prove it 😊 We took our own photos and quickly got back on the road. Back in Port, the 6 of us parted ways so that each couple could get a few things done prior to meeting back up for coffee at The Ground (yep, my old house) in Masset. After grabbing a drink, we went back out to Cemetery Beach. There is a beautiful cemetery there, and some of the group spent time wandering through to look at the headstones. The beach is also gorgeous, and is close to town, so easy to get to when you have places to be but need a quick beach injection.
That evening, we were invited to Candace & Christian White’s Tluu Xaadaa Naay Longhouse in Old Massett. They were hosting a group of visitors to learn a little bit about Haida culture, Christian’s carving (he is a Master Carver), and to see and learn about Haida songs and dances. It is always moving to hear the drums and see the dancing, and I am always brought to tears. Although not my culture, growing up here demands that the drumming and music become a part of your heartbeat. It was such an honour to have received Candace’s invitation, to get to see her “in action,” to learn some of the stories behind Christian’s totem poles, and to visit with them afterwards. She even convinced their cousin, Lisa White to open her gift shop after hours for us. The Gin Kuyaas – Haida Art Studio & Gifts is a beautiful gift shop housed in a long house near the start of Old Massett. The smell of the cedar longhouse alone should bring hordes of people in! Once you’ve inhaled that gorgeous smell, bring your eyes down from the ceiling and look at the many beautiful art, clothing, and jewelry pieces available. Jeremy and I were thrilled to find a gorgeous Jordan Seward print to bring home for our walls. If I’d had my way, I also would have left with a paddle and some pieces of jewelry. (OB: yah, but remember how your husband is unemployed now? Simmer down on the spending, lady!). This gift shop is a “must see” when you’re on Haida Gwaii. My advice? Don’t spend all your money on BC Ferries or in the first store you find as you get off the ferry! Take your time to see all that is available as you visit throughout Haida Gwaii. There are some great hidden treasures to be found. The six of us spread our shopping between the Longhouse Gift Shop (Skidegate), Crystal Cabin (Tlell), and Gin Kuyaas (Old Massett), and Jeremy and I are still here for another day or so. (OB: nice try, you’re still not getting a paddle, ring or bracelet. Jenn: dammit.)
My other advice? Definitely take part in the dinner, dance & culture evenings hosted by Candace & Christian White. Keep your eyes and ears open for dates, times, locations, and pricing – ask around and someone will likely connect you! Word of mouth is often the best way to find out about what’s happening here. Be respectful, be willing to learn, and be prepared to be moved and inspired.
Another friend I grew up with, Leslie, participates in a cultural teaching and dancing group called The Davidson Descendants. Again, if you’re visiting Haida Gwaii, ask people you meet about local events. You’ll no doubt stumble across an amazing experience.
We will have part 2, days 22 – 26 up soon, we promise 🙂