Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

There is nothing like a long walk or run to clear the head of troubles or worries and to remind you that you are out of shape!

This weekend I got out of town and went up coast to visit with a friend who has a beautiful Bed & Breakfast nestled in the dunes on the east coast of Haida Gwaii.

When I first came to the islands almost 12 years ago Cacilia had just bought this huge single family homestead and was in the midst of converting it into the beautiful place that it is now. When I moved to the islands two years later I stayed with her and helped with some of the conversion. We have been fast friends ever since. We like and get much satisfaction out of many of the same things, hiking, walking the dog, the beach, photography, berry picking, art, cooking. As it turned out the weekend weather was spectacular so we chose to walk/hike.

Haida Gwaii is not a good place to hike. The Haida who are known to have been on these islands for a least 10,000 years lived in villages of 300 to 500 people on the sands between the sea and the forest. The interior of the islands were very inhospitable with tall trees and thick impenetrable understory. Everything the Haida needed was offered up by the sea and supplemented by berries and plants collected on the periphery of the forest or traded for with the peoples of the mainland coast. Any interior access to the island was by canoe accessible rivers. The 150 islands that make up this archipelago are created by steep mountains that rise from the sea and bog lands. Once a year the Haida would venture into the forest as a group to harvest cedar trees for their longhouses, canoes and totem poles. They are not a land people.

With the arrival of the white man more of the islands have been opened up but we still mostly live along the coast. Trails that exist on the islands are few and if not used regularly are quickly overtaken by the temperate rain forest. There are a few ancient trails we know about but can't imagine travelling, there are remnants of the incredibly hard work of the early settlers in the form of miles of corduroy roads pushed through over the bog lands and then there are the modern trails put in to save stands of timber from the logging companies and to satisfy the ever demanding visitor.

So, Saturday we chose to walk one of latter trails called "Old Growth Alley". It meanders for 9.5 km along the banks and flood plain of the Tlell River(yes it is spelled right, Haida word meaning "where big waters meet" and is pronounced with the first "l" silent and pronouncing the last two "l"s separately) through ancient original old growth cedar. We both know about this trail but somehow the sunny blue skies just removed any common sense from our heads! When you haven't walked most of the winter, 9.5 kms is no stroll in the park. Fortunately a high water crossing about half way out brought us to our senses and we turned back. Tired and sore we covered 10 kms of a stunning forest walk. As if the previous day was not enough we decided to walk out to the Pesuta Ship wreck, another 10 km walk through the forest and on the beach on Sunday!

There are no words to express what it is like to walk among these monumental trees. The Haida knew their importance and used only what they required. We know their value and take as much as we can, to make as much money as we can. I wonder if we have enough time to come to our senses!

1 comment:

CoyoteFe said...

OK! I give! You made me google "Haida Gwaii". BC? Always wanted to see that place. Wow! Sounds absolutely beautiful, and I like the gentle way you describe it. That photo of the bridge is ... what's the word? Compelling!

And, I DO hope we all come to our senses sooner than later. Always good to have less to clean up.

Be well.


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