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Gwaii Haanas National Park Mothership Kayak Tour Itinerary include ('../includes/trips.php') ?>
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve is a very large, very remote and very difficult area to access. The itinerary must always be flexible and adapt to weather conditions, logistical challenges and the interests of each group. We always endeavour to provide you with the safest, most interesting and time effective trip possible. Primarily because of the large distances involved, all trips travel either north to south or south to north. In order to accomplish this, guests begin their trip by flying from Queen Charlotte City to a destination point in either the northern or southern reaches of the park. The full six-day trip will then be capped off by another "flight seeing" trip returning guests directly to Queen Charlotte City on the morning of their seventh day.
We try to get going fairly early in the day to make the most of our time in Gwaii Haanas (i.e., up at 7 to 7:30 and away by 8:30). We travel, relax, explore and prepare meals together. We'll be stopping several times a day to go ashore and experience the rich natural and cultural points of interest in Gwaii Haanas or to kayak for a few hours in a quiet bay or along an interesting reef. At the end of our travels for the day we find a quiet anchorage, prepare our evening meal and perhaps go for a paddle to absorb the peace and tranquility of this magical place.
ArrivingYou need to arrive on the Charlottes at least the day before the day of departure on the Gwaii Haanas trip. If you have the time, consider building at least two days into your travel plan to explore Graham Island (preferably after your trip with us – see “Departing” below). There are lots of interesting and beautiful things to see and do on the north island. There are two ways of getting to Queen Charlotte City, either by air from Vancouver to Sandspit or via B.C. Ferries from Prince Rupert, B.C. If you fly into Sandspit, take the airport limo to Queen Charlotte City ($20.00/person including ferry fare). This takes about an hour including the ferry trip across Skidegate Inlet. The limo will drop you at your hotel, B&B, or campsite. Accommodation should be previously arranged. If you sailed across from Prince Rupert via BC Ferry Service, you’ll dock at Skidegate Landing - about a five-minute drive or cab ride from Queen Charlotte City.
DepartingIt is not a good idea to book your outbound flight from Sandspit or BC Ferry sailing from Skidegate to Prince Rupert on the morning of your scheduled return to Queen Charlotte City. Fog, wind or any one of a number of other glitches may delay the Inland Air Charters flight causing you to arrive back in Queen Charlotte City too late to make your travel connections.
|Giant Sitka Spruce|
Depending on the level of the tide, we'll either go for an early morning paddle or head to the nearby hotsprings for a soak. Hotsprings Island is spectacular and well worth a visit by itself. I'm a bit prejudiced on this but I think that it's definitely the best hot springs in B.C., possibly even Canada or even...maybe... the world! Definitely a 10 in any case.
Gandll K'in Gwaayaay (Haida for Hot-Water-Island) was well known for the healing and spiritual qualities of its natural thermal pools. This is a sacred place for the Haida. There was a village located on the east side of the island but little evidence is visible today.
We usually come ashore on the northeast side of the island. A short trail leads through lush forest to the Watchmen cabin. After signing in, we rinse off in the nearby bathhouse, whose showers are fed by the springs. The largest pool is nestled amidst salal bushes and crabapple trees. A trail leads up and over a seepage meadow to the cliff-side pool. Relax while enjoying views over Juan Perez Strait to the rugged peaks of Moresby Island. Further down the trail, the more intimate beachside pool is only steps away from the ocean.
After enjoying the pools we’ll be moving south again, likely to Island Bay in the north Burnaby Strait area. We might try to fish up dinner along the way and will very likely want to get a paddle in as well.
Burnaby Narrows lays a short paddle from Island Bay. Some references say it has the densest display of sea life on the Pacific coast. Records aside, it does present an opportunity for two or three of the most enjoyable hours you’ll spend in a kayak. An incredible array of intertidal flora and fauna residing there to take advantage of the twice daily tidal delivery of nutrients, become exposed and visible at low tide. A kayak - maneuverable, quiet and otherwise unobtrusive, is the perfect craft to view this natural splendor. As the tide rises a passage opens miraculously, saving us the long and sometimes arduous voyage around the outside of Burnaby Island. By noon we’re usually through ‘The Narrows" and into beautiful Skincuttle Inlet. There are many opportunities here for pristine ancient forest walks, exploring streams that later in the year will provide unaltered habitat for several species of pacific salmon. We choose to end our day by traveling a bit further south or we may just stay put in Skincuttle for the night.
The area south of Skincuttle Inlet and particularly west of Houston Stewart Channel separating Moresby Island from Kunghit Island offers great bird watching opportunities with Tufted Puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets, Cassin’s Auklets, Storm Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters to name a few, being common. If we’re lucky, we might see a Horned Puffin, as the southern Charlottes are the only place that they nest in Canada. We've often seen humpback, orca and Minke whales as we head south from Skincuttle Inlet en route to the southern reaches of the park. I often go into Rose Inlet for a paddle and walk through an old Haida industrial park where they obtained much of the raw materials required to sustain their culture (bark, logs for manufacturing canoes, poles, houses etc.).
Walk on a magnificent black sand beach, explore natural caves or paddle the tidal pools in the Gordon Islands a truly west coast setting. The southern reaches of the park are really spectacular and offer lots of choice for the day's activities. The weather (i.e. wind speed and direction) will often make the choices for us but we'll try to accommodate the collective will of the group as much as possible. We may end up the day in one of the protected bays of Louscoone Inlet. Perhaps needless to say, there's nice paddling here too!
|Mortuary Poles at SGang Gwaay|
SGang Gwaay Llnagaay, the most southerly Watchmen site, is on the small island of SGang Gwaay, shown on charts as Anthony Island. It is off the far southern tip of Moresby Island and west of Kunghit Island. SGang Gwaay refers to the wailing sound made when winds push through a hole in the rocks at a certain tide level. The village is also named Nang Sdins Llnagaay (Ninstints) after one of the village chiefs.
In 1957 eleven of the best-preserved poles of SGang Gwaay Llnagaay were removed and shipped to museums in the south. Despite this, the village has the best array of ancient Haida longhouse remains and poles standing in their original location. In 1981 UNESCO declared SGang Gwaay a World Heritage Site. Over two dozen poles remain, as well as the posts and pits of several longhouses. In 1995, after consultation with chiefs and elders, a number of the poles were straightened to prolong the period before they return naturally to the earth.
SGang Gwaay Llnagaay was a major village of the Kunghit Haida, the most southerly of the Haida. It held over 300 inhabitants in the late 1830s. However, in 1862 a disastrous smallpox epidemic wiped out most of its inhabitants. By the late1800s, the few remaining residents had moved northwards at the invitation of Chief Skidegate. This was despite being traditional enemies with the Skidegate Haida.
Today, the village is approached from a beach and anchorage at the north end of the island. A boardwalk trail winds through lush forest with caves and rock outcrops that would have provided defenses in the old days. After passing the Watchmen cabin, your first glimpse of the poles is through the trees; then suddenly you are confronted by a row of massive, weathered mortuary poles carved with bears, whales, and eagles. These poles speak of the power of great families of this village, more than 150 years ago. Walking onto the sand of the crescent beach and looking back towards the village, you may feel the spirits that remain here. At low tide, canoe runs—areas deliberately cleared of rocks—are still visible on the beach.
The names may be somewhat confusing but the impression that Nang Sdins leaves is most certainly not. Spectacular, fabulous, incredible are only a few of the adjectives that people conjure up to describe this place. Nang Sdins remains as the only example in the world of a traditional northwest coast first nations village, complete with standing poles and the remains of massive cedar longhouses. The progression of human evolution from cave dweller to masters of architecture and culture remains clearly evident. The Haida’s ability to not just survive but to thrive on this small windswept island is a tribute to man’s indomitable ingenuity and force of spirit.
A hike to the west side of the Island, kayaking in the northern reefs of SGaang Gwaay or possibly a visit (weather permitting) to the spectacular sea lion colony off the southwest side of the Island are all options for the afternoon.
A visit with friends in Rose Harbour completes an interesting day. These folks live lightly on the land and teach by example that a simpler existence is possible and rewarding. They often generously invite us to explore the remains of the Rose Harbour Whaling Station or to view a partially finished Haida canoe on their property. Susan often prepares a splendid organic vegetarian meal with homegrown ingredients to cap an incredible day.
The following morning sees you packed and heading north for Queen Charlotte City via “Beaver” floatplane, an adventure in itself. Inland Air Charters employs several very competent and knowledgeable local pilots that have accumulated an impressive safety record while servicing all points of the islands over the past fifteen years.
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