Friday, August 26, 2011

Haida Gwaii Part Two

These holidays were making me lazy. I was usually out of bed around 8, which is unheard of for me. Lazy days in the slow atmosphere of the mist isle. It was so nice to be able to sleep in. No chores, no responsibility. It wasn't a problem to help out in the kitchen and do some dishes. I was so relaxed. This day was no different. Late rising, eating breakfast and drinking lots of tasty fair trade coffee. We decided to walk into town to have a look around. Charlotte City has a decent amount of interesting retail. Its a mix of "everything under one roof" hardware store, consignment clothing store, a dollar store, an organic food store and an eclectic home decor shop. I thought this place was pretty fancy for the island. What do I know. We had food at a place called Queen B's, and coffee. We purchased a couple of books at the store. "How to knit in the woods" was one, I can't recall the others. We stopped at the hospital to see Katie at work, then by chance met Matt on the road. He picked us up and took us home. We quickly changed and were headed out for a hike.

Todays trek was to the Tlell/Anvil trail. We headed out towards Tlell again, and past the nude beach. The trail is quite hidden on the side of the road. A small sign marks the trail head. The thick growth of the forest masks the actual route until you are on it. The trail meanders through the forest along the Tlell river. I assumed the trail had the anvil added to it because the river routes through the forest in an anvil like shape. We wandered around looking awestruck at the monster spruce, red cedar and hemlock trees. I was amazed at the size of a root ball of a downed spruce that wasn't that big in the truck. The roots just spread out for feet from the trunk. The river is very dark from the tannic acids from all the cedar trees around. It is almost black. Amazing. I hope to make it back to see this place when there are salmon in the rivers. It was pouring rain for most of the day out there. That made it even better. A rain forest is much nicer when it is all wet and one can hear the rain drops falling through the tree branches and hitting the river. Mesmerizing. I think I took more pictures along this walk than I took in any one place. The total trail is 5k and we were out for a couple of hours. It was  time to head home to dry out and cook dinner for when Katie got home. Smoked Black Cod poached in milk. Deelish.

The next day we had the house to ourselves. We leisurely had breakfast and coffee before heading out to see the Haida Heritage Center in Skidegate. We got on the bikes for the first time in a few days. It felt not too bad, my backside still wasn't right, but I made it. The museum is beautiful. It is a must see for anyone going to Haida Gwaii. It gives a complete history of First Nations on the islands, many artifacts, totem poles, canoes, and art. This place was huge and we spent a few hours wandering around. Hundreds of priceless items are housed in the museum as well as canoes and totem poles outside. I couldn't believe the size of the dug out canoes that were used to cross Hecate strait and go on trading missions up and down the coast. Unfathomable.

We left the Heritage Center needing some nourishment, and caffeine. We rode a kilometer up the road to Jags coffeehouse. We had a sweet treat and a coffee, and listened to Jags tell us stories of people who have come to the island to do incredible feats of endurance. He spoke of the fellow from Oregon who laid on and paddle a surf board around Graham Island. Unassisted. I think it took him less than 50 days. That is something that I couldn't imagine doing. Big respect for that guy. We finished up and made out way home for dinner. My travel partner made a fantastic platter of sushi with and without the bounty of the sea left overs we had been having for dinner the last few nights. We watched a concert DVD while planning the next day when Katie would take us north to Massett and North beach. Excited!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A break from the tour blog

I am getting close to the end of the tour journal and its been my focus since we returned. I realized that I hadn't had a blog post since June that wasn't about the tour.

I have been busy this summer. I under took a project renovating my deck, I went to Ucluelet for a family reunion, fishing in Gold River, camping at Raft Cove, and enjoying every minute of it. There is a bunch of salmon in the freezer. I am smoking some candied salmon as I write this. I was lucky enough to find some early chantrelle mushrooms in some of my favorite spots, and that got me very excited. The Honda Element has been great, very happy with it. It is the best vehicle I have owned. A perfect mix of function, utility and fun.

I have been very lazy at my cycling this summer as far as commuting goes. I have been making excuses to drive a lot. With all the projects and trips happening this summer, it feels like I have more time when I drive. I feel bad writing this. I keep hoping that next week I will ride, and I am not doing very good at it. What can I say. We did do lots of mountain biking, and we discovered shuttle rides up Forbidden Plateau. It is really fun to drive up the hill and ride down on the trails.

The latest thought in my head has been tiny houses. My girlfriend bought a book about it, and I have been aware of them for a while, thanks to the Rowdy Kittens. The concept is romantic. The reality may not be. Living in just over 100 square feet. Three people and a dog. Not sure, but I am willing to give it a try. It would be a way to save money, get out of debt, simplify, and to get rid of lots of things. Maybe down to 100 possessions. Cutting back on unnecessary possessions, and the need to fill a space with things that not needed or really wanted. It is a very interesting idea and I will be doing more research and learning more about it.

Not much to say, except life is fantastic. I am about to go eat some candied salmon. I will post on how it turned out and share a recipe.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Haida Gwaii Part One

It was an overcast, cool June morning in Prince Rupert as we rolled out of the hotel. A continental breakfast was offered and we filled up on bagels and yogurt. Nice start to the day. A quick ride out of town had us at the ferry terminal an hour early and waiting to cross Hecate Strait. Soon we were aboard the vessel, and instructed to tie our bikes against the wall of the car deck. I guess it gets pretty hairy out in the strait. We found some nice chairs up on the deck and settled in with books and coffee. We brought food from PR, so we didn't need to eat on the ferry. The sandwiches were excellent, and I got free coffee. The ferry employees on the northern routes are very nice. What a difference from the southern routes. After seven hours, and a rare calm day across the straight, we docked in Skidegate at 6 pm.

One of our hosts, Katie, was at the terminal waiting to accompany us back to her house in Queen Charlotte City. She was on her road bike so we traveled the few kilometers into QCC. It was so cool to finally be here. After all these years, here I was. We settled in, had a sockeye dinner, and spent a few hours talking. It was nice to have a home base for a few days.

The next morning Katie had to work, so Matt would be our tour guide. His plan was to take us to Yakoun Lake on a hike, then go out to East Beach to go crabbing. I couldn't have been happier. Crab is probably my favorite thing to eat. The Yakoun lake trail was accessed by a half hour drive down a logging road. We were stopped and warned by a forestry worker that a logging truck was coming. We stopped and waited, and a "fat truck" off highway logging truck loaded came barreling down the road. It was fortunate that we had warning about that one!

The hike to Yakoun lake is about 40 minutes down a maintained trail. Huge spruce trees were throughout the forest as well as some impressive red cedar and yew. The lake was very nice. No clear cuts were visible from the shores, and the snowcapped mountains were across from it. I played with my new friend Holly, the family dog. She is a sweet little girl. I threw sticks for her in the water, we chased ravens together, and she watched me carve a walking stick. It was a nice quiet place to have some downtime. Soon we had to leave so we could go fishing.

Back on the road armed with fishing license, chest waders, and a dip net, we headed towards Tlell. Before Tlell is a place called Nude beach. No nudes there. Disappointed. It was incredibly calm here. Surprising as the beach is open to Hecate strait. Wading around in the sand having no luck looking for crabs. After a while I talked to a few fellows who were snorkling in the bay. The snorkelers were having great luck catching crabs, and one of them suggested I go over to the rocks. Soon I was on to them. The dungenesse crabs were here. Very nice sized critters. I was thrilled. Soon I had four in the bag and I was heading back to the beach. Matt observed that I looked like Neptune coming out of the water with my bag full of sea creatures. Quickly back to the car, and home so we could make dinner for Katie.

 I cleaned the crab on the lawn with Holly helping me. I feasted on crab. I ate one and a half huge crabs. It was out of this world. After dinner we walked to the beach in front of QCC and tossed out the crab remains, and went to the store to get ice cream. $12.99 for Breyers for a liter and a half. Holy crap. Thats Haida Gwaii for you.

What a start to the stay in Haida Gwaii, what will be the next adventure.......

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Haines to Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii.

We spent two really nice days in Haines. Good company, great setting, beautiful scenery and Payday bars. We did some souvenier shopping, eating at the local coffee shop and wandering around aimlessly. It was so nice to be off the bike for a couple of days to let the rear end heal. We topped off our stay with a quick swim in the ocean in front of the cabin and soon we were bidding farewell to our hosts and reluctantly rolling out to catch the ferry south. And no, the two days didn't heal the sores.

We arrived at the ferry terminal to find Urse and Chris already waiting for the boat. We prepared our gear to take up just what we needed, and leave the rest with the bikes. The ferries are so different from the ones in BC. They load from the side, which is the first difference, and the vehicles have to turn around and they are loaded in sync with how they get on and off. This boat would be stopping at Skagway, Haines, Juneau, Petersburg, Wrangell, and Ketchican. We hurried up to the top deck to secure our chairs, which would be our beds and main sitting area. The boat was quite busy when we arrived, and we were happy to get two seats undercover. It was roasting hot in there because they have electric heaters on the ceiling that are on all the time. The sun was shining in through the solarium, plus the heaters made it almost unbearable. I was feeling a little overwhelmed with the though of sitting in that heat with the crowd. Luckily most of the crowd was on a bus tour and they departed the boat at Juneau.

The food on the ferry was a little on the crappy side. The coffee was terrible, probably some of the worse I have ever had. I would really suggest that if you plan on being on this type of cruise, bring you own food. The fresh to order sandwiches were good, but everything else.......not so much.

The ferry passed through some beautiful water on route south on that first day. We saw many glaciers, especially near Juneau. The sun set was spectacular, and with the long night, I was up late reading. I finally drifted off for a decent sleep. We awoke to a completely different day. The sun had been replaced by drizzly foggy weather. The mountains were all hidden by the fog. It did make for an interesting experience. It was really west coast feeling, especially with the multitude of commercial fishing boats all around. Petersburgh was full of boats. It reminded me of being in Campbell River when I was a kid. Wharves full of trollers, seiners, gill netters and crab boats. I was saddened that we never saw "The Northwestern" but we were in the wrong place for those crazy dudes.

We spent many hours reading, chatting with the other "campers", taking pictures and napping. It was so relaxing. The Wrangell narrows is an impressive place. It is 35k long, and has over 60 buoys, lights and markers to guide vessels through it. The ferries and commercial boats use it, but the larger cruise ships cannot as it is too shallow for them. It was pretty neat to be that close to shore on a 400 foot plus boat. We went ashore in Ketchican, as we had a two hour wait there, and it would be our last chance to set foot on American soil. I knew what I had to do. We walked off the ship, and right to a grocery store. I had forgotten in Haines to stock up on Payday bars. I had six greenbacks left and change and I was able to buy 5 bars. I was so happy. I was content to get back aboard and settle in. We had a 4am wake up call.....

I was loud when the PA went off at 4. The lights of the Prince Rupert port were bright, but the day was still foggy and mist. We laboured to pack our stuff up for our departure. Sluggishly we made our way down the stairs and  found our bikes as we had left them. Off the boat and through customs and we were back in Canada. Now we had some figuring to do. Our ferry to Haida Gwaii was either today or tomorrow. We rode into Prince Rupert at about 5am, it was just getting light. There were many sport fishers getting ready to head out on the water. We found Tim Horton's(my favorite:( and sat down to eat and have some coffee. There was a creepy guy walking around our bikes outside, looking like he wanted to rip them off, so we decided we better beat it. Finally getting a hold of BC Ferries, and found out that we were not leaving until the next morning, we went and booked a hotel room. It was just right. We spent almost all day in there, watching silly TV shows. We did go out to eat, and wandered down to Cow Bay and Cowpuchinnos coffee shop. It was excellent. I talked to my daughter and we both cried. There were six bald eagles in the tree beside us. That was cool. We hit the grocery store on the way back to the hotel and that was about the day.

The anticipation of Haida Gwaii was very strong. Its hard to believe I slept that night.