Part 2 Hawa’a Haida Gwaii – In the northern rainforest
After my traumatizing arrival in Sandspit and my rescue by the wonderful people I met there, I began my week-long kayak trip as a guest of Green Coast Kayaking, owned and operated by Jo Hager.
We paddled briefly in the Pacific Ocean, but mostly we stayed on the protected convoluted eastern coastline of southern Haida Gwaii. We passed numerous islets and lingered along the rocky shore admiring the life we found there.
Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii is an archipelago on the north coast of B.C. Its 150 islands cling to the continental shelf . Their isolation from the mainland has given rise to species that have evolved differently from their mainland counterparts – like the black bear that inhabits the islands. Slightly larger than its mainland cousins, it is particularly adapted to catch salmon and to break open clam shells. And the word is that the islands’ black bear doesn’t perceive humans as a threat, nor finds us particularly appealing to eat. So that’s a good thing to know, especially when you’re pitching your tent in the forest a short distance away from the others. I digress.
Bear tracks overlaid by raccoon tracks. The Black Bear is unique to Haida Gwaii. The raccoon is an introduced species that eats the eggs of sea birds.
These islands are so diverse, abundant and unique that scientists describe them as the ‘Canadian Galapagos’.
Like the Ecuadoran Galapagos, the purity of Haida Gwaii’s native ecology has been compromised by introduced species. At every beach we stopped at we were greeted by deer, contently grazing on the sea kelp. Deer were introduced by sailors for sport. They multiplied and are now hunted on several of the bigger islands. Good to have the game, but introducing new species doesn’t ever seem to be a good thing. Without natural predators to keep their numbers low, the deer have damaged the native plant communities by their browsing. That also prevents the natural regeneration of cedar, even in old-growth forest. Deer are perhaps the most destructive introduced species, followed by raccoons and rats.
One morning, my merry band of eight paddlers had just broken camp in a small cove on Haida Gwaii’s Bowles Point. We’d launched our kayaks and the rocky beach receded behind us. I bobbed in my kayak enjoying the quiet and breathed in the nourishing atmosphere of Haida Gwaii. I looked up and through the early morning mist I saw a bald eagle gliding soundlessly overhead.
All of a sudden, a humpback whale rose to the surface of the still ocean blowing spray and elegantly undulating – submerging, then emerging on the sea’s surface. After our initial exclamations of delight, the utter calm of the cove enveloped us as we watched the nature that teemed around us. The Pacific Ocean provides the nutrients to sustain a remarkable variety of species. That’s what attracted our humpback whale.
That moment was just one the sensory pleasures in the many that saturated the week I spent on the ocean and in the northern rainforest. At every turn during my week in Haida Gwaii I was humbled by benevolence, beauty and abundance among the people and in nature.
Eagle glides through mist
stretched wings elegant, soundless
surveys the sea below.
Redolent atmosphere heals.
Kayaks bob on still sea
A humpback whale finds surface
Misty sea air soothes my soul.
Calm sea reflects soul
soothes mind, spirit, judges not
If you go
Book with Green Coast Kayaking: gckayaking.com
Arrive in Sandspit by air with Air Canada from Vancouver: www.aircanada.com
Or by ferry from Prince Rupert: www.bcferries.com
Stay at Seaport Bed and Breakfast in Sandspit (Run by Moresby Explorers)
Eat lunch at Brady’s Bistro in the Sandspit Airport
Visit Moresby Explorers in Sandpit: www.moresbyexplorers.com
Visit Haida Heritage Centre at Kaay ‘Llnagaay on Graham Island: www.haidaheritagecentre.com