Land of Enchantment
I hopped on the boat to Haida Gwaii, and went straight to the sky deck to enjoy the sun and warmth. It was one of the first times my arms had seen the sun, and it felt so good. I hung out on the boat doing work and keeping to myself when a few guys came to sit next to me and started talking. They were hammered out of their gourds, and made sure everyone around knew it. At one point, one of the guys answered his phone and started having a very strange conversation, very loudly. His crescendo ended with him shouting into the phone “BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE CONDOMS!!!” His friend punched him and told him to shut up. They were on their way to Haida Gwaii for a fishing trip, so we exchanged numbers thinking we may run into each other on the island.
I had met a woman Rhonda the day I turned off the Cassiar Highway. We chatted for a while at a pull out. When I told her what I was doing, she told me that she lives in Skidegate on Haida Gwaii, and works at a local publication. She gave me some pointers for Haida Gwaii, and then we parted ways. I didn’t expect to see her again. When I got into Terrace, someone gave me a friendly honk and wave, and when I looked closer, it was Rhonda again. I laughed, recognizing the chances of that happening were quite slim. When I got off the boat on Haida Gwaii, I heard my name shouted ecstatically. I looked up to see Rhonda again, so I gave her a big happy hug.
I rode into Queen Charlotte in the dark. I was heading to my host for the night, Michelle from Couchsurfing. She lived in a really cool hut and was waiting for me to get there. The ferry got in pretty late, but she had no problem staying up and chatting about our travels. She made me stir fry, we had tea together, and then I went to bed in her loft.
There was one bathroom on the main floor. I woke up three different times to pee, every time having to come down a ladder from the loft in the dark. Thankfully and surprisingly, I didn’t fall off once. In the morning, we had oatmeal for breakfast, and she gave me some tips about the island. She had started a ukulele group in town, so she told me all about it and showed me videos from their performances. Then I left the house, went to pick up groceries, and ate at a park right next to the ocean.
I rode to the closest dirt logging road to go to Rennell Sound, the first stop on my Tour de Haida Gwaii. The logging road was empty. I saw some loggers pulled over who informed me that they were pretty much the only ones on the road - it was a holiday weekend, so there was no active logging and most people were already away hunting or camping for the weekend. The weather was better than anything I could’ve asked for. I wore a t-shirt while riding for the first time all trip, and enjoyed every minute of it. Eventually, the forest got so dense that no sunlight was hitting the road. I could tell what had recently been exposed to the sun, because I kept hitting walls of differing temperatures. The air in a matter of seconds would turn from hot to cold, and then back again, depending on the contours of the road, the proximity to a water source, and the tree coverage up above.
Haida Gwaii has a wealth of resources - First Nations have survived in the woods and off the ocean here for millennia, living largely on the bountiful seafood. The Haida Gwaii Black Bear has been genetically isolated from mainland black bears for so long that it has evolved into a morphologically distinct subspecies of the American Black Bear. The weather on the island is temperate, so they hibernate for less time than mainland black bears, and the island is so highly populated with seafood that the Haida Gwaii Black Bear can constantly be eating - they’re considered the largest black bears in the world, with huge skulls, molars, and claws.
It was salmon run season, and there were so many salmon running that the bears couldn’t keep up. Salmon were rotting on the shores in masses, and the smell perforated the dense forest. The stench was so strong that I could often smell where rivers were before I even saw or heard them.
As I turned off to the dirt road that led to Rennell Sound, there was an immediate decrease in road quality. I then saw a sign that pointed out that maintenance for this section of dirt road had ceased. Crazy rolling hills were made more difficult to ride by loose gravel and big stones. Views would have been magnificent, if not for the obvious destruction of the forests by the foresting companies. It seemed like they came in, took everything they could, and then left, no longer worrying about the area or roads.
For thousands of years, the Haida people have selectively harvested the trees on the island for building boats and shelters, and carving symbolic totem poles. During the First World War, the world learned about the plentiful and premium quality spruce lumber that existed on the island. The industry grew for decades to come, however in the late 20th century, changing environmental regulations and decreased value for timber (all the old growth timber was logged away), logging activities gradually declined. Negative environmental and cultural impacts of decades of logging resulted in large protests by the Haida people and supporters. A massive blockade at Lyell Island led to government interjection, resulting in the protection of Southern Moresby Island and eventually the creation of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. This protest was one of the most successful of its kind - it proved that when First Nations come together and fight for the land they should rightfully live on and control, true protection and conservation can result. While the damage of logging in the Northern part of the archipelago has been done, and the industry continues to be one of the main contributors to the Haida Gwaii economy, the Haida people can be assured that they have land in the Southern part of the archipelago that will remain mostly untouched by destructive activities.
As I struggled through the ride to Rennell Sound – parts of the ride were more challenging than many single track mountain bike trails I’ve ridden – I passed some girls who were mushroom picking on the side of the road, and two hunters who were heading out for their hunt of the day. Both parties were camping in Rennell Sound for the night, so I figured I’d see them later. The last stretch to Rennell Sound was a 2-km, 25% grade gravel downhill from the mountains straight down to the sea. I’ve had to walk my bike on a few uphills, but never have I had to hike-a-bike downhill. This time was different. With such loose gravel and such a steep grade, it was nearly impossible to control my bike and keep traction, so I hopped off my bike and walked all the way down. Even walking the bike was surprisingly difficult. The way up was sure to be even more fun. On the way down, the mushroom pickers passed me, and we shared a laugh about me struggling so much.
When I got to the Rennell Sound Recreation Site at 5pm, I was absolutely blown away. It was beautiful beyond belief. I looked at my watch again and it was 7pm. I had no idea where the time went, but all I had accomplished in those two hours was building my tent, which usually takes no more than ten minutes. I must have been mindlessly gawking at my surroundings for that long. The way the mountains dropped into the sound put me in a trance. I didn’t end up seeing the mushroom pickers or hunters, so I cooked dinner and got ready for bed when I saw two people walking to a nearby creek for water. Beverly told me they had a big party camping a little further down the beach, and invited me to their fire. I had some stuff to do, so I told them I’d be over in a little bit.
I woke up the next morning in my clothes. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to the fire. I was up early to get on the road and up the massive hill to get through the bad roads before a storm came in. Just as I was about to make breakfast, I met Lindsay, who was part of the group of people at the fire last night. We talked for a while, and then Bev came and invited me for coffee. I was going to come just to eat my breakfast with some company and then get on my way, but then I ended up talking to them for a while. They brought out lunch and insisted that I stay and have some. It started pouring while we were eating, so I stayed in their shelter for a while. When the rain lightened a bit, I was finally able to convince myself to leave the tarp covered, dry table filled with wonderful welcoming people. I said goodbye to Bev, Mike, Lindsay, Sean, Anne-Sophie, Sebastian, and Louise.
I mentally prepped myself for getting up the massive hill, and once I arrived at the bottom, I got off my bike. I didn’t even give riding up a shot, and started pushing. It was tiring and hard, but a surprising amount of fun. I was hiking up the hill for about 20 minutes when a car with Meg, Georgia, and Morgan pulled up. They insisted I get in, but didn’t have room for my bike. I was happy walking, but then their friends pulled up with enough room to take my bike. They ended up being the two mushroom hunters. They insisted on driving me up the hill, so I took them up on their offer, for the company. They were all really sweet people, and lived and worked on the island. Like many others, they came to visit and fell in love and never left.
I was planning on going to camp in an inlet that I found on a map, but the people at Rennell Sound told me it wasn’t all that nice and was mostly just a logging area, so after the hill I instead decided to go to Port Clements — a small town of 280 people. It rained on me all day, offering stunning views of cloud-covered roads and mountains. On my way into town, there was a hiking trail to the Golden Spruce that I decided to ride through. Arches of moss-covered branches protected me from the rain. The silence and beauty relaxed me. The forest felt enchanted and the trees seemed to be communicating with each other. There was so much life in such a small area.
The Golden Spruce, or Kiidk’yaas in Haida, meaning ancient tree, was held sacred by the Haida people. The Golden Spruce, which grew right on the bank of the Yakoun River, had a genetic mutation that changed its needles from green to gold.
The Haida story is that an old man and his grandson were in the forest during a snowstorm. They were making their way down the river when the grandson went to defecate in the woods. The grandfather told him it was not right to disrespect nature. As they continued on, the grandfather said to his grandson not to look back because things would never be the same. But the boy didn’t listen and looked back. He began to grow roots and stayed. He grew into the Golden Spruce.
The tree was cut down in 1997, after 300 years, by a man protesting the logging industry.
On the way into town, I stopped at a shooting range and spoke to a guy and his son from Masset. He told me he had seen me and then got worried about me when he passed a huge black bear eating just off the road next to one of the bridges. I unfortunately didn’t see the beast, but his worry was still appreciated.
When I got into town, I saw a touring bike outside of a pub, so I went in to see who was riding and to get advice on where to camp. Al had been touring around Canada during his retirement, and when he got to Port Clements he liked it so much he decided to stay. His dream was to start sailing around the world, but he was taking some time to enjoy Port. He had set up a hammock right outside of town, and had been hanging out for two months. I learned he was a regular at the bar from Deena, the bartender. I decided to stay for dinner with Al.
We talked with Deena for a long time while Al kept on buying me drinks. I learned all the gossip of the town — who the town drunks were, who was dating whom, who the troublemakers were, where people worked.
Al knew everyone in the bar, so he was asking around for a shower for me to use. Deena offered to let me use her shower but then told me that her boyfriend was coming that night and warned that he was a bit crazy so I would have to get out by 10pm. He was known in town as “Crazy Joe,” because when they started dating, Joe went around to everyone else that was showing interest in Deena to warn them to stay away. Deena was a gorgeous woman, and looked way younger than she actually was, so when she moved to town she got a lot of attention from the local men. Joe happened to win the competition, and made sure everyone else knew that he was the victor. I decided a shower wasn’t worth dealing with that drama.
Then Marcus came in. Marcus and Al were buds, and Marcus ran a bed and breakfast, so Al asked him if I could use a shower and camp on his property. Marcus said “absolutely – as long as you pay!” I declined, because I didn’t want to spend more money. After drinking and talking with him for a while, I won him over, and he told me I was more than welcome to come stay with him and use a bed and shower free of charge. He also had a lot of beer at his place, so he invited Al and me over to continue drinking there after we finished our beers at the bar.
As Al and I were heading out to go to Marcus’s house, I heard a couple of huge bangs at the door. They sounded like gunshots. I freaked out and ran outside to see if everyone was okay. A huge monster truck was doing a burnout, and then chased after Marcus. I could see his silhouette, backlit by the street lights, running away from the truck, cartoonishly zigzagging, jumping, and flailing his arms. He probably also shit his pants, but I couldn’t tell for sure because of the darkness.
I then checked in on Al, who was outside for the whole fiasco. It turned out the gunshots were actually pieces of gravel being launched at the wall and door of the bar by the burnout. He felt rocks fly right by his face, but luckily none hit him. He was rattled, and we went back inside to a horrified Deena, wondering what the hell just happened. We gave her a quick summary, and she ran after the car screaming. Al went back to the bar to drink away his fear and anxiety, and I walked out behind Deena to make sure she was okay. She courageously gave them a mouthful, and then came inside shaking.
Al and I were nervous that these guys were being malicious, and that they were actively going after Marcus, so we decided to stay away from his property and out of his drama. He continued buying me drinks, despite me telling him that I was okay. He got smashed.
When Deena went to talk to the people in the truck, she had apparently threatened to call the cops on them, and so they begged her not to under the condition that they would just head home and not cause any more trouble. Everyone knows everyone in this town, so calling the cops on someone is a little more political than it would be in a big city.
Looking for more information for an incident report, Deena asked Al what he had seen, but he told her he didn’t want to get involved. After a lot of coercing, and even more alcohol, he drunkenly and accidentally spilled that there were a few people hanging out and drinking in the truck when they called him over and invited him in. He hopped in, and started hanging out with them. The driver said “this is my cousin’s truck. I’m gonna fuck up the tires in a burnout.” At the moment Al realized the guy was smashed, he started his burnout. Al managed to jump out of the car just as the guy pulled off. He was safe. This information, plus what Deena had found out in her interrogation, led to a suspect being identified. But Deena had promised not to report it to the police, and she was a woman of her word. Apparently the guy had some relationship with a cop and some other well known people in town, and was scared shitless at the idea of them finding out about his mischievous night.
We figured they weren’t attacking Marcus, but decided that if he hadn’t yet returned to the bar, he probably didn’t want the company.
For such a small town, I experienced a surprising amount of noise and drama for one night. I guess I got the spark-noted version of the Port Clements [only] bar scene.
A group of three Haida girls and one Haida guy came in. Al kept telling me that in his two months on the island, he hadn’t been able to “talk to their people.” He kept making generalizations, so I encouraged him to go talk to them to hopefully get over his them and us mindset. He was too drunk for me to be interested in joining him, so I stayed back to hang out with Deena. While we were talking, she got a phone call from Joe, who told her he wouldn’t be coming over tonight, so Deena offered for me to use her shower and camp in her back yard. Now that I had a place, I didn’t worry about leaving the bar early, so I stayed and enjoyed conversation with her for longer.
When Al got back, he was incredibly excited to have finally spoken to a Haida person. At this point, he looked like a chameleon, not even sober enough to keep both of his eyes pointing straight. One of the main goals of my time on the island was to learn more about Haida culture and history, so I went to speak to the Haida girls while he was at the bar. He ended up coming to join in on the conversation, but kept on interrupting and saying offensive and demeaning things (I think it was unintentional), but I kept on having to calmly say “Al, please, let them speak” and “Al, please, I’m trying to listen,” every time getting a little more impatient and a little more forward with him. When Al had finally gotten the point, and the girls realized that I was actually genuinely interested in learning more, without any personal input, Steph pulled me aside and gave me an entire history of her family, told me all about Haida culture and the story of the land, and answered all the questions I had. Haida Nation is split up into two social groups, the Raven Clan and the Eagle Clan. Steph was proudly in the Raven Clan. From each clan stems many lineages - each lineage passes down different stories. To maintain alliances between clans and bloodlines, Haida marry people from the opposite clan. Haida Nation is a matriarchal and matrilineal society, so clan, lineage, property, and rank are all passed down to the next generation through the mother. The Haida language was previously never written down, so stories and culture were passed down through oral historians, and Haida art. Haida people are known for their ability to create intricate, beautiful, and story telling totem poles. Once a totem pole is put up, it cannot be moved. Nature must decide its fate.
The Haida people have lived through the ice age, flooding, and the first tree. Their first contact with the outside world was in 1774 when they encountered Juan Perez off the coast of Northern Haida Gwaii. They then began trading fur with the outside world until nearly a century later a smallpox outbreak killed tens of thousands of Haida people. In the late 1800s, an amendment to The Indian Act, an act consolidating all laws relating to First Nations, banned the potlatch (a gift giving feast directly linked to rank and status where all important matters such as chief inaugurations, property transfer, weddings, funerals, and telling oral history, are conducted), making the Haida legal system illegal, and denying them an essential part of the social, economic, and political system. Then, the federal government partnered with churches to create “Residential School Systems” for First Nations - essentially a way to force assimilation by forcing the English language, the Christian faith, and the Canadian education system on the kids. In the early 1900s, the logging industry exploded on the island, slowly destroying the natural beauty and sacred state of the island.
Despite all of this, the Haida people persisted. Perhaps their strength comes from their strong storytelling culture and their drive to keep the Haida culture strong. Perhaps it comes from the matriarchal structure of their society. Perhaps it comes from their deep, spiritual connection to the land they have lived on for millenia. Their persistence led to removing the potlatch ban, to the creation of the Council of the Haida Nation, to the creation and protection of Gwaii Haanas National Park, and to the recognition and affirmation by the Canadian government of aboriginal and treaty rights, and to the resilience and continued practice of Haida culture on the island. Steph’s grandmother was proudly one of the key players in fighting for Gwaii Haanas National Park. However, Steph still felt like time and again, the government and those who don’t understand Haida culture are constantly trying to wipe them out, whether intentionally or ignorantly.
At the end, I thanked her for taking the time to talk to me, and she thanked me for being so genuinely intrigued. She told me most people just ask her how they can not offend Haida people, and how they can be politically correct, but rarely do people take the time to genuinely learn more and ask questions about the culture and history. She told me that if people tried to learn more about the culture, they would naturally learn how to not be offensive, and wouldn’t have to be worried about being politically correct, but because they were only ever worried about how not to offend them, they ended up being offensive anyway. I asked her if she had any recommendations for what to do when I get to Masset, and she invited me to a special ceremony. I told her I’d try to make it, though I might not get into town on time for it.
I ended up spending the rest of the night with Deena at the bar. I got hungry again, so she gave me a pickled sausage for free, and Steph made fun of me for eating it with a fork and knife. After everyone had left the bar, I helped Deena close the place. As we were heading out, we noticed that Al had left his takeout ribs that he had ordered 5 hours before on the patio of the bar. Apparently the ribs were super good, and Deena hadn’t eaten all night and hadn’t gotten to try the ribs before they ran out, so I took them home for her, knowing that there was no way they were going to be good in the morning.
We then headed back to Deena’s house. This afternoon, I got to the bar soaking wet and covered in mud from the rain and dirt (now mud) road. It was still pouring rain, so Deena offered for me to set up my sleeping pad and sleeping bag on her patio so I was more sheltered from the rain, knowing that I had already spent the day wet. She called Joe to check in, and invited him for coffee with us in the morning. I showered, we talked for a bit longer, and then went to bed.
I woke up the next morning to Joe coming up to the patio. He excitedly introduced himself, and I spent the morning drinking coffee and talking to Joe and Deena. Joe was a really cool guy, and I didn’t think the “Crazy Joe” nickname was fair. They were heading to Sandspit for Canadian Thanksgiving, so they were in a rush to get on the road. They ended up leaving before me, but were more than happy to have me stay while they were gone. Apparently the house is never locked, so they told me to just head out whenever I wanted.
It was still pouring when I got on the road, but I wasn’t too worried about it because it wasn’t too cold and I was staying with Kim from Couchsurfing at night. I got on the road, and ended up seeing Mike, Lindsay, and Sean pulled over on the side of the highway, trying to decide whether to go to Tow Hill or go elsewhere to fish. I was planning on camping at Tow Hill the next night, so I told them I would see them there.
The rain got even worse, and didn’t let up once. All my gear soaked through, so I just powered through to Kim’s house. The ride was nice, but not much was visible because I constantly had rain in my face. When I got to Kim’s house, I was dripping wet, so she brought me down to her cement floored basement where she has a hair salon. I took off all my wet gear and met Damek, who was sitting in one of the salon chairs. I thought Damek was Kim’s brother. I later found out that he was Kim’s son. I think everybody on this island looks younger than they actually are. Maybe it’s the relaxed nature of the island life, maybe it’s the sun protection from constant cloud cover, or maybe it’s just a higher level of health and happiness out here, but there was definitely something special going on. By the time I had gotten to the house and showered, it was too late to get to the Haida ceremony, and I had no idea where to go so I decided to stay at the house and hang out with Kim. She told me “you’re going to come to Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's with us tonight… if you want.” I told her I absolutely would love to come, forgetting that Thanksgiving was actually tonight. I didn’t want to interfere with their family holiday, but her steadfast invite made me immediately feel like a part of the family. Kim also invited me to stay with them for longer, because I had only requested one night on Couchsurfing, thinking I might spend time cycling around Naikoon Provincial Park along the beach.
After tea and chatting, we headed to Kim’s mom’s house for dinner. They welcomed me with open arms, and made me feel immediately at home. I was so thankful and fortunate to be able to spend Canadian Thanksgiving with such a warm, welcoming, sweet family.
Kim showed me the art around the house, and showed me some glass balls that she explained were homemade Japanese fishing buoys that show up on the Haida Gwaii shores all the time from Tsunamis. I told her I’d keep an eye out for them as I travelled down the coast.
When we got home, I went to bed immediately. I was exhausted.
I woke up in the morning and had breakfast with Damek and Kim. After doing more research into cycling around Naikoon, I decided that I would take her up on the offer to stay longer and skip cycling along the beach - I didn’t have all the right gear, I didn’t have enough time, and it wasn’t the best season to do it. I spent some time working, and then Meishon, Kim’s other son, got home from Thanksgiving at his dad’s house. He was only 12, but had a special maturity and awareness that I hadn’t seen much in 12 year olds. I ended up spending all day with him.
Meishon loved to jump off the docks at the wharf in town, and asked me to join him. He was surprised by my ecstatic yes, so we tossed on wetsuits and went over to the docks with Kim. It was raining and cold, so we only lasted comfortably for about 25 minutes before heading back home to shower and warm up. When we got back, it started raining harder and an incredibly strong wind kicked in. After I showered, I went to do some work in the living room when the sky completely cleared up in the span of a few minutes. “Meishon! Look outside!” I screamed. He ran downstairs, looked outside at the sun, and then looked at me. At the same time, we said to each other “docks again?” We squeezed into our wet and cold wetsuits again, and ran over to the docks. Meishon said that this is just how the weather works on the island. Kim thought we were nuts, but we were having a blast. On the way over to the docks, Meishon told me how happy he was that I was here to go jumping with him. He told me none of his friends really like to do it, and he didn’t like to go alone. We were both just happy to be able to take advantage of the sun together. The tide was lower than before, so the jumps were even more thrilling. We jumped until the tide was low enough that I touched the bottom jumping from a shipping container on the dock. When we got home, I showered again. After averaging a shower every maybe five days before this, having two hot showers in a day was a spiritual awakening.
We all had dinner together, and then Damek took me to the reservation in Old Masset to visit some of his friends and family and to pick up some famous homemade popsicles. He gave me a tour of town, and then we went back home and hung out and played video games with Meishon.
The next day, Kim invited me to stay another night with them. After doing some work in the morning, I decided I would skip camping at Tow Hill because I was no longer riding the beach, and just ride out and back to see the area and then sleep in a bed again.
The ride out was absolutely beautiful. A few miles in, asphalt turned to dirt road. I rode through a tunnel of green created by the dense, mossy forest canopy. As I got closer to Tow Hill, I could hear waves crashing on the shores. I noticed a back road that led straight to the beach, so I went to check it out.
When I finally got to the Tow Hill hiking trail, a car pulled up behind me. Louise and her husband were heading to the beach to see Anne-Sophie and Sebastian surfing, so we chatted for a while, and then I followed behind them towards the beach. I rode the beach for a bit, and while I probably could have done the whole beach with my tires, it wouldn’t have been fun or safe, so I was glad that I decided to just stay in Masset. I hung out on the beach with Louise for a bit, and then headed back to Masset for dinner. On the way back I stopped at Agate Beach to check out all the stones. There were so many different colored polished rocks and beautiful shells. After exploring for a bit, I raced back so that I would get home before dark.
David, Kim’s friend, made fresh fish and chips. It was easily the best fried fish I’ve had. After hanging out with Damek and his friends for a bit, I got ready to leave the next day and went to bed.
The next day, after eating breakfast and packing up my stuff, I headed south towards Tlell. I usually hate riding the same road twice if I don’t have to, and since I didn’t ride around the beaches, I had to head south for about 30 miles on the same road I took up. Luckily, it was raining so hard when I headed north that on my sunny way south I couldn’t recognize anything. The scenery was all new, and all beautiful.
When I got to Tlell, somebody stopped their car to talk to me, and told me that there was a campground nearby that was now free because it was out of season. According to the weather forecast, a big storm of high winds and heavy rain was coming in for the next two days, so being in an established campground was a little more ideal than wild camping.
I got to the campground, and heard waves crashing. I realized that there was a beach access trail from the campground, so I rode to the beach and found the perfect spot to put my tent. For about 10 minutes, I had an internal battle of whether or not to set up my tent on the beach with the risks that the storm brought with it. I decided that it was too incredible of a camping spot to pass up, so I set up my tent and enjoyed the scenery, taking in the sights and sounds of the windy, bird filled, wavy beach, and basking in the final, fiery rays of the sun before it rested beyond the horizon for the night.
I woke up early to enjoy the sunrise off the eastern coast of the island, and it did not disappoint. The “storm” ended up being a light rain that cleared before I woke up. The remaining rain clouds stuck around to catch the early morning sun, glowing with reds, oranges, and yellows. I’ve learned to not trust any forecast on this island. The weather changes at the drop of a hat, so you need to be prepared for anything and everything that this place can throw at you, whether it’s high winds, heavy rain, sudden temperature drops, or fog.
While I was enjoying the sunrise, Cecilia came by for her morning beach photography walk. We chatted for a bit, and I brought up how crazy I thought it was that the weather can change so quickly. “Well, it’s a big ocean out there, that’s just part of life on the island,” she responded. I told her I was riding back to Skidegate to catch my ferry back to the mainland, and asked her for recommendations on where to hang out in town. She recommended I go to Jags Cafe, telling me that the owner was a really nice guy, and suggesting that I bring up photography with him, as he is an extremely talented and passionate photographer.
Expecting the rain to come back, and taking advantage of the sunshine I was given, I headed into town quickly. The whole ride was along the eastern shore, so I enjoyed sun and beach views all morning long. Gulls, ducks, and sandpipers monitored the beaches, while bald eagles monitored the oceans from above. I was the happy middleman, monitoring the wildlife surrounding me, thankful for the beauty and serenity that the island had offered me the whole week.
As soon as I got to Jags Cafe, the rain returned. I’ve had an uncanny ability to bring rain everywhere I go. I was in Alaska for 3 weeks, and there were only three days that I wasn’t rained on. Most Alaskans told me, it was the rainiest August they had seen. I rode into Whitehorse in a torrential downpour. When I got into Whitehorse, the roads were flooding. The downpour continued for 36 hours. Whitehorse is in a semi-arid region, and my hosts made sure to tell me that they barely ever see anything like that. On the Cassiar Highway, I camped by a town where someone had told me never gets rain. I rode out in the rain the next morning. Before I came, Haida Gwaii was rain free for 4 months. I’ve been rained on 4 of the 7 days I’ve been on the island. Despite knowing that I’ve managed to time my trip perfectly so that I hit rainy season pretty much everywhere, I joked that I would be able to end the California drought once I got there, hoping to make a gloomy situation more positive.
I had lunch at Jags and worked for a bit before chatting with Sue and Khataya, who I later found out were Jag's wife and daughter. We talked about my adventure for a bit, and they told me all about an adventurer named Eli who came to Haida Gwaii and circumnavigated the island by surfboard. He stayed with Sue and her family, so Sue had a lot of stories to share. Sue also showed me videos of a recent trip she and Jags had taken down to Gwaii Haanas. The park is only accessible via boat, so they took a chartered boat on a tour of the park. One morning, they were sitting at a beach having their morning coffee when the guide told them to drop everything and immediately get on the boat. They pushed off to follow a mega-pod of thousands of dolphins, an occurrence so rare that the guide had never seen anything like it. The videos were so breathtaking I imagined myself being physically unable to move or speak at the sight of the mega-pod in person.
I then got to meet and talk to Jags, who shared more stories about the island and other adventurers who had come through, like “Cycling Dutch Girl,” a Dutch woman named Mirjam who had been cycling around the world for nearly a decade now. We talked about photography (you can see his awesome work on Instagram @jagsbean), and then Jags and Sue recommended I go see the Haida museum in town, so I left the cafe a little earlier than expected to get to the museum before closing. I had told them I mostly ate peanut butter wraps, so as I was packing up, Jags and Sue packed up a scone and piece of pizza for me, saying “I don’t want you eating peanut products until AT LEAST tomorrow.” I gave them my word and happily and graciously took the care package.
Jags walked me out. In the Haida language, there is no goodbye, so he told me “gocken thla daugee,” meaning “watch your step.” I responded “ha’awa,” meaning thank you in Haida, and left for the museum.
Later that afternoon, Jags posted a picture of me that he had taken in front of his cafe on Facebook. Of the people that liked the post, I knew about five. People from all different moments of my week on the island commented about having met me. Although each town I was in was different, the size of the island means that everyone knows everyone. My time on the island was a success. I came in wanting to learn from the locals - about where to go, what to do, and about local island and Haida culture. I left having learned from and shared with people from all over the island.
After learning more at the museum and relaxing at the terminal until my ferry came, I got on the boat and immediately passed out – happy, fulfilled, and excited for the next leg of my adventure.