Tuesday 6 September 2022

Haida Gwaii (Part 2)

Our next stop after the Moresby Explorers tour (see previous post for details) was at Haida Gwaii Glamping:

Haida Gwaii Glamping

Haida Gwaii Glamping is a beautiful new set-up overlooking the beach in Tlell.  With 10 luxury glamping tents, a social geodesic dome, covered BBQ deck, and cedar hot-tub; we couldn't have found a better spot to stay for a couple of nights.  We had a beach front tent, with a couple of additional cot beds.  The owners have really thought of everything; the site is incredibly well equipped from hammocks and kayaks to guitars, and has a really laid back atmosphere.  The Glamping comes a close second to Moresby Explorers in everyone's favourite part of the trip. 

Boy playing guitar, Haida Gwaii

Boy in hammock, Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii Glamping Hot Tub

Masset / Tow Hill / Beach Cabin

After a couple of relaxing nights at Haida Gwaii Glamping, we travelled to the north of Graham Island to an off grid cabin overlooking South Beach.  We booked the 'Waldorf' cabin at Haida Gwaii Beach Cabins.  The cabin was seconds from the beach along a short trail through the sand dunes.  With a double bed downstairs, a double mattress in the open loft, and a double sofa bed there was plenty of room for the 6 of us.  The on-demand hot shower from a propane fired heater in the outhouse was a pleasant surprise, and our host Kevin supplied plenty of fresh water for drinking and showering. 

Waldorf Haida Gwaii Beach Cabins

South Beach is a beautiful stretch of sandy beach within Naikoon Provincial Park, with views of Tow Hill to the North East.  The water was certainly refreshing, but watch out for the Lions Mane Jellyfish, I got a light sting on my ankle from one while swimming.

From the cabin we explored South Beach, North Beach and Tow Hill, including the famous Blow Hole.  There's a pleasant 1.5km (each way) trail to the top of Taaw Tldáaw (Tow Hill).  The trail is fully board-walked with lots of steps, but the views of the beaches and Rose Spit are worth the effort.  

View of Rose Spit

According to Haida history, North Beach is the creation site where Raven discovered the first Haida people inside a giant clam shell.

The Blow Hole is found on the beach at the bottom of Tow Hill, and is apparently formed from a whale sent by the evil Tow to swallow Hopi, but Hopi turned the whale to stone and all that remains today is the blow hole.  On a rising tide with moderate swell the blow is very impressive.  By chance we arrived at just the right time and were lucky enough to see the blow in action.

We also explored Masset and Old Masset; visiting some Haida art galleries, stocking up on groceries and drinks, having lunch at Daddy Cools Public House, and takeout from Charters Food Truck (both highly recommended!). 

Golden Spruce Trail

The Golden Spruce Trail starts around 5km beyond Port Clements (partially on logging roads, but easily accessed in a standard car).  The trail is an easy 1km round trip along the banks of the Yakoun River.  The Yakoun is the largest river on Haida Gwaii.  At the end of the trail there used to stand a magnificent, rare, Golden Spruce tree known as Kiidk'yaas.  Despite its beauty and cultural significance to the Haida people, it was cut down in 1997 in an ironic protest against logging. 

Totem Raising

On our final day in Haida Gwaii, we heard there was going to be a new Totem raised in Old Masset.  Opinions varied on whether the pole was going to be raised on Thursday (our last day) or Friday, but we decided to go and check it out.  It turned out that the confusion was caused because the pole was being delivered to the site on Thursday and raised on Friday.  We arrived at the site just as the Totem was being offloaded from the lorry.  Some of the carvers continued to make final adjustments to the pole after it was safely off-loaded.  It was hugely impressive to see the magnificent 63ft new pole being delivered to it's future site, although disappointing that we missed out on the raising ceremony and Potlatch! 

Old Masset Totem Pole

Carvers working on new totem pole in Old Masset

Totem Pole hole Old Masset

Haida Heritage Centre

The Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay just outside of Skidegate is a must visit.  The centre is built on a traditional Haida village site and is designed to resemble a collection of long houses in traditional Haida style.  We actually visited the centre before our Moresby trip, and we were glad we had as the Haida sites we visited on the trip made much more sense with a bit of background understanding.

Haida Heritage Centre

Boys with totem at Haida Heritage Centre

Reflections on our trip

Haida was a truly life enhancing trip, we have explored a lot of Canada but we really felt we had learnt so much and grown as people following this trip. It is hard to explain exactly why Haida had this effect on us but the combination of wonderful nature, extraordinarily friendly people, fascinating history, and an education in how First Nations can really make change adds up to a really enriching experience. Haida, the place and the people, will stay with us forever. 

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