Friday, 27 September 2013

Visiting Haida Gwaii 2013

Souvenirs of our trip - hey, I'm a prairie girl and am very easy to entertain
 when near a beach.

We’ve just returned from Haida Gwaii – a shorter closer to home vacation this year as we plan for our year of travel in 2014.  We first planned to visit these islands off the BC mainland 27 years ago.  An impromptu driving holiday with two children under 4 and a large dog stopped at a rainy and misty Prince Rupert when we realized that
  • It was a seven hour ferry trip that needed to be booked ahead of time
  • In the summer you need to book accommodation, or be prepared to camp
This time, we planned ahead.  BC ferries had a package that included the booked ferry for us and our vehicle as well as 4 nights accommodation at Haida House (and accommodation in Prince Rupert before and after the ferry).  We had a fantastic time, made even more memorable because the weather was dry, warm and sunny.  The manager at Haida House helped us plan a day to Skedans as well as pointing us in the right direction for a couple of days of hiking and exploring.  To be honest, as a Northern Alberta prairie girl, put me near an ocean and I’m pretty easy to entertain!

The ferry from Prince Rupert to Skidegate was comfortable and the time passed very quickly.  We started out in thick misty fog, which was great for some atmospheric pictures, then the sun broke out and we didn’t see fog again until returning back to the mainland.  While waiting for the ferry, we met a couple from Australia who were also taking the same package trip as we were.  It turns out that they had just visited Iceland and were planning to travel to Scotland AND Rob was an even more passionate birder than Cal.  We shared stories and suggestions for great books to read.
Dock at Prince Rupert looking atmospheric

And the sun arrives and stays with us for the next five days

Hiking to the Pesuta wreck was a great way to spend the day – first half of the hike was through forest and then along the beach.  Amazing how you can feel so isolated, even though you know that you are only a few feet away from the river (and your hotel is on the other side).  We watched fish jumping and even skipping along the water.  There were groups of fishermen catching salmon and making Cal wish he had thought to bring his fishing gear.  I had a lovely time playing in the water and taking quilty pictures.  That night we realized that the Tlell river was tidal (ok, I’m a prairie girl, give me a bit of a break).  We watched as it changed from flowing south (away from the ocean) to flowing north (toward the ocean) with a few minutes of it flowing both ways.  Here’s a link to the hike. Pesuta Shipwreck Hike

The sunshine on the wreck just made fantastic pictures - perhaps an idea for a quilt?

everything is so green and lush.
Lots of rain (less than Prince Rupert, mind you)
 and every tree that falls becomes a nurse tree for others.

Playing with the water and the waves and practicing pictures with the new camera.

Loved the mossy/lichen communities

Playing with waves and water (hey, I'm a prairie girl)
Just as we came out onto the beach.  Trust me, there's an interesting fishing cabin in the trees.
I wasn't supposed to take pictures, but I couldn't resist.
Heavily beaded, I can't begin to imagine how many hours work.
Our hotel, Haida House, was newly renovated this year and used to be a bear hunting lodge.  Yes there are bear and there are also 20,000 deer that are beginning to make a nuisance of themselves.  Off islanders can get a license to shoot 14 deer a season.  It's a partnership between a big resort chain and the Haida nation.  Some pretty impressive art was scattered through out the building, all of it for sale.

Totem pole by Reg Davidson

I was fascinated by the way the wood grain is integral to the design.
 Traditionally, poles were not painted.  Blame Bill Reid for making changes.

Bentwood box, also by Reg Davidson.
Used as a drum (no lid on it)

And surprise, when you move it away from the wall,
the inside is also painted.

Non aboriginal artist from Tlell.
 This picture doesn't do justice.
 It was hanging in a narrow dark hall.
 Canvas has been painted, then cut, folded and sewn.
Totally incredible. Sewn art

Haida House logo.  Created by a 19 year old student.
Drop of water with a salmon eye.

Saturday, we got up early to head to Queen Charlotte City to meet with James from Haida Style.  I had no idea what we were doing or where we were going (hey, I’m a prairie girl and I was cool with the idea that we were going on a boat ride on the ocean).  Turns out, James is one of the members of the Haida council and involved in much of what is happening in Haida Gwaii.  He was also an incredible teacher about anything and everything.  My biggest problem is that he would be talking about something, and I would want to ask a question but he would have moved on to something else even more interesting.  His assistant, Stas (sorry if I have spelled it incorrectly, it was the short form of his Haida name) was a young very quiet man who was equally fascinating.  He piloted the boat for the over one hour trip there and back and it turns out his career plan when he finishes grade 12 next year is to get his license to pilot the big freighters that ply the waters along the coast.  Oh yes, his father will be the next hereditary chief of Skedans and his brothers were the main carvers of the Legacy Pole Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole and his grandmother was in the last canoe to leave Skedans in 1906.  To be guided through this once thriving community by someone who learned the stories from those who have lived there was a privilege.  As we walked, he and James would consult each other about memories to make sure they were telling the stories of the poles correctly. And the fresh cooked salmon on the beach was excellent.
Setting off from Queen Charlotte City.  No, it wasn't cold,
Cal didn't want to burn his head anymore!!

on our way to Skedans, we pass an island of Sea Lions.
First the ladies jumped into the water.  Then the younger males started making a lot of noise.
Then the big male sat up and took charge. With my camera on a small boat with maximum zoom,
 you can get some great pictures.  If you take dozens to allow for the boat and the waves...

some more quilty patterns
way cool effects.  Thank you sunshine.

beach at Skedans
even driftwood looks cool
our zodiac waiting for us.
mortuary poles (you can tell from the rectangular holes at the top
where a bentwood box would have been situated)

this huge tree had fallen since James had last been here.
  I get the term Widowmakers now.
post card photo of Old Masset in 1881.  Skedans would have looked similar.

James (front) and Stas
I would have never know that this was a totem pole "returning to mother earth".
 Stas could point all the amimals out and knew who it belonged to.
yes, another fallen totem pole
environmentally sensitive.  Note the wind turbine at the top of the tree,
the satellite panels part way down and the solar panels on the top
 of the cabin where the Watchers stay all summer.
The chief's house.  Six beam.  Abandoned in 1906 (at least for full time living)
  James and Stas both remember coming back here to stay in the summers.
 Reminded us of Iceland - in that ancestors are still very much
 remembered and you know about the buildings

Answering the question about how do you get the boat
 out in the middle of the water - kayak.

The southern islands are very mountainous.
Haida Gwaii is on the boundary of two plates which are pushing together.

Cormorants.  Getting better at taking long distance maximum zoom pictures
Lunch on the beach.  It's a tough life.

Our last day, we drove up to the North of the island.  North Beach, Tow Hill, Masset, Old Masset.  Some walking, some climbing, some more time on a beach.  Old Masset was the First Nations community and we were warned that there was a lot of poverty there.  Interesting, because coming from Northern Alberta where we have close contact with first nations communities, or impression was more how thriving the community was.  Yes there were buildings that were abandoned and in poor repair, but also there were houses that people were clearly proud of.  James had explained to us how the Haida nation are working on a process where land can be individually owned (so you can then be eligible for mortgages and have a feeling that it belongs to you).  Masset also is home to a number of new totem poles.

Sarah's Haida Arts, Old Masset.
Door was carved by Reg Davidson for his father and step mother (Sarah)
 in 1975.

Assorted interesting finds on North Beach

I have no idea what these are, but they were very much alive with
arms reaching out from the shell.
North beach from the top of Tow Hill.  Fairly easy climb.
Other than the fact that there were steps build by "fit young, long legged men"
 which meant that natural walking wasn't happening.

Our final stop was to walk into the site of the Golden Spruce.  We have the book by John Vaillant and I’d recommend it to anyone. 

On our way from Prince Rupert, listening to CBC Vancouver as the only radio available, we heard about the first winter storm of the season which closed down the ferries for two days.  And the first snow in Fort Nelson.  Thanks Haida Gwaii for a great holiday.  

The clouds rolling in as we leave on the ferry.

Inn on the Harbour Prince Rupert
Carpet and wall coverings.  Must have been designed by a quilter!

And finally, just around the corner from our hotel in Prince George...
Revolving doors used by Al Capone and others

1 comment:

  1. I have no idea why some of this has a white box around it and some of the pictures have artsy shadows. Definitely not intended and I have no idea how to explain how to Blogger that I don't want it. Oh well. Focus on the content.