Touring experiences: Haida Gwaii
hey say every seventh wave is the largest; those must have been the ones that slopped over the bow of my kayak and slid off my sprayskirt when my timing wasn’t spot on. I was on the outside of our foursome, and while at the foot of a huge trough, my peripheral vision lacked my friends. Committed now, it was just a matter of concentrating on paddling until we reached the relative calm of Collison Bay. Once there, as the adrenaline began to slow, we were joined by a pod of humpback whales seaward of us, their exhales reminiscent of our own sighs of relief. Heeding the warnings about the power of opposing wind and tide and having timed our rounding of Goodwin Point for slack water, we felt confident leaving our pond-like lunch spot in the bay. But nature’s power can be unleashed quickly and were soon engulfed in three-metre swells. Later around the campfire, we
agreed turning around was not an option. My three companions and I were paddling in the southern part of Gwaii Haanas National Park, in Haida Gwaii, Canada’s westernmost archipelago. The high-speed inflatable zodiac transporter we arranged in Sandspit whisked us from Moresby Camp to Fanny Cove, and dropped us off, along with our rented kayaks and gear, for a week’s paddle north. It was early yet for the paddling season, so we had this incredible wilderness beach all to ourselves. Topping our list for this trip was a paddle to Ninstints, the remains of a traditional northwest coast First Nations village site (Spring 2012 Coast&Kayak). A light breeze stirred as we paddled through the low swells of the open Pacific towards the remote eastern side of SGang Gwaay. We radioed the resident summer watchman, and she replied, “Permission to land, and you are the first kayakers to visit us this season.”
Ninstints is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, and sacred ground for the Haida. Above the beach, amongst the moss and grasses, stand disintegrating mortuary and memorial poles, as well as rotting beams and corner posts from huge cedar longhouses. The remains will eventually return to the earth as part of the natural cycle. Canoe runs are still visible on the beach as the tide falls. As we wandered through this 19th century village, the spirits of the Haida ancestors seemed to be watching. Respecting the freshening breeze and the change of tide, we thanked the watchman and hastened our return crossing. Paddling northwards, every day brought a fresh choice of camping spots. It is refreshing in a national park to have no designated camping areas, no outhouses and the freedom to have campfires below the high tide line. Fairytale-like carpets of deep moss amongst the huge cedars and sitka spruce
WINTER WINTER2012 2012
Published on Oct 26, 2012
Explore Princess Louisa Inlet, frolic with cougars on D'Arcy Island, paddle the coast of Gwaii Haanas and try Greenland paddles in this issu...