Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 Calendar of Outdoor Adventures

Yes, I am late on getting out a 2014 year in review and am not much of a resolution maker.  So instead or in place of a year end recap of our adventures I thought it would be cool to create a calender for 2015 that highlights the top adventure from the past year for each month.  

All photos are from our actual adventures taken during 2014 as a family.  I hope it gives you, family or not, some fresh ideas and inspiration to get outside in 2015.

JANUARY - West Coast Winter Fog while hiking Mount Maxwell on Salt Spring Island, BC

FEBRUARY - Surfing on Chesterman Beach Tofino, BC

MARCH - Snowshoe Mt. Becher in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, BC

APRIL - Night hike on Mt. Benson Nanaimo, BC

MAY - Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail near Powell River, BC

JUNE - Kayaking Ladysmith Harbour Ladysmith, BC

JULY - Backpacking the Vancouver Island Spine Trail near Port Alberni, BC

AUGUST - Mountain Biking the trails of Cumberland, BC

SEPTEMBER - Hiking to the summit of Mt. Arrowsmith, largest peak on southern Vancouver Island

OCTOBER - Rock Climbing on Thanksgiving near Penticton, BC

NOVEMBER - Remembrance Day hike to plane crash site on Mt. Bolduc, National War Memorial

DECEMBER - celebrating the winter solstice while traveling home for the holidays Slave Lake, AB

It certainly was a power packed year of adventures for the On the Beaten Path crew.  2015 is shaping up to be just as adventurous as we continue embrace the #followyourfeet campaign KEEN Canada promotes.  This year our feet will be going on another international adventure and as usual, exploring the wild spaces of Vancouver Island.  Now, if I actually get around to printing a calendar, that would be a miracle.  Cheers!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

68 hours of Hawai’i – The Big Island [Blog Series] Part 3 Adventures on Land

The third blog post in my five part series gets back to what I know best - outdoor adventure and Hawaii has plenty.  Being one of Fairmont Hotels Destination GoPro Heros and given the opportunity to film our story at Fairmont Orchid was a once in a lifetime experience.  In Part 1 of my blog series, Joel and I were introduced to luxury travel.  Part 2 took us on a cultural and historical journey that exposed us to the many different traditions, agriculture, and landscapes that make up and define the people of Hawaii. Now it is time to share the adventures we had, all 20 hours of them!  It was crazy busy, given we only had 68 hours to spend on the Big Island, but Joel and I still managed to sneak in three very different adventures that showcase the best of what Hawaii has.  First up – Adventures by Land.

Our arrival to the Big Island was at 11:30pm which was essentially torture.  It meant waiting six more hours before we could begin taking in the sights and adventures we had been planning for weeks.  Normally waking up at 5:30am is a chore but in Hawaii it was heaven.  We started off our land adventures with a morning run along the shores of the Kohala Coast.  For an hour we ran up the coast to Waima Point and back down to Malaiwa Bay.  Running on lava rock was a first for both of us and requires your attention.  Dare I say tripping hazard?  I may have taken a few trips but regardless, it was a beautiful day, gorgeous views and I had the best running partner.  A girl could get used to this paradise.

Our second land adventure of the day has us travel north along the Kohala Coast to North Kohala and the Pololu (long spear) Valley.   Hwy 270 ends where the Pololu Valley lookout begins and the view is breathtaking.  Steep cliffs with lush forests of the Kohala Coast meet the blue waters and black sand of the Kohala Coast.   

From the Pololu Valley lookout we hiked down the steep windy Awini Trail and enjoyed our first Hawaiian swim.  So refreshing and powerful.  Rough surf and strong currents are common so we stayed close to shore.  We were also aware of Portuguese man o wars (blue bottle jellyfish) that are sometimes seen in the waters.  They pack a painful sting.  Some like to add relaxation to their beach time, we like to add adrenaline to ours.  

Along the valley bottom, groves of hau and ironwood trees fill the landscape and offer a bit of shade.  After our swim we sat on the beach for a while but as I often say “Ain’t no rest for the wicked” so off we went to explore the Hawaiian forest.

Across the beach the trail heads up the cliff opposite of what we hiked down.  This would take us over the next ridge.  There are 7 major valleys that are carved along the North Kohala coast.  Unfortunately time did not permit us to explore further even though we knew there was a bench on top the cliff with more stunning views of the coastline.  At one point the trail did continue past the bench through to the next valley but the 2006 earthquake has destroyed sections of the trail but there are always die hards who seem to do the impossible.  I have found a few blogs and videos that show as recent as 2013, that you can do a 10 day hike from Pololu Valley to Waipia Valley.  Before we suffered the hot climb back up the cliff, we briefly explored further into the Pololu Valley.  Streams flow through these valleys and are prone to flash floods.  Today all was calm. 

Our last land adventure of the day was a spontaneous one.  We were racing back to Fairmont Orchid, for our luau, via the scenic Kohala Mtn. Road when we noticed a sign for the Koai’a Tree Sanctuary.  Without speaking a word, Joel turns into the parking lot and we both hop out of the Jeep and take a quick tour of this patch of forest surrounded by green pastures.  By quick I mean run, all 13 acres of it. A rough trail has been built thru the forest with numbered signs that I expect will have map and interpretive signs to accompany.  The Koai’a Tree Sanctuary represents all that is left of the native dryland forest in the area, an area that used to be over 40,000 acres large.

Domestic farmland has since taken over the hills along Kohala Mtn. Road.  It sounds odd but it is here I have the fondest memories of our day of adventuring by land.  It was here Joel and I ran thru the forest like so many times we have done before.  Different forest but same feelings of freedom and appreciation for nature, together doing what we love doing.  Because we were to film our Fairmont’s Destination Go Pro Hero story, we had many moments of setting up video opts while creating multiple videos of us running back and forth.  There were moments of silliness, moments of miss-steps, and moments of spider webs (spiders and all) unexpectedly coming into contact with my face.  You can’t recreate or plan these moments. 

Adventuring by land in Hawaii is not without its discomforts.  Stubbed toes on jagged lava rock, steep climbs in the hot afternoon sun, threat of venomous tentacles delivering a painful sting, and coming face to face with spiders…literally! But if you asked me to do it all over again, I would have it no other way.  In between these discomforts were firsts.  First lava rock beach run.  First Hawaiian swim on a black sand beach all to ourselves.  First dreams of adventures that are possible at Pololu Valley.  And first looks at what a native dry land forest can become.  8 and a half hours of adventuring by land had me head over heels in love with Hawaii.  Can adventuring by ocean and air compete with this?  Guess we will find out. 

KEEN gear used:
Joel and I both wore KEEN sandals for our hike down to Pololu Valley and our run thru the tree sanctuary.  Venice H2 & Clearwater CNX Wearing these sandals allowed for a seamless transition from hiking to swimming and back to hiking. They dry fast, protected our toes from roots and rocks and held up for our short but fun run on a rough trail.  The KEEN sandals allowed us to travel light, be spontaneous and take on a full range of outdoor pursuits without any restrictions.  
Follow your feet

Friday, December 5, 2014

68 hours of Hawai’i – The Big Island [Blog Series] Part 2 Kohala & Kona Culture

I am 2 blog posts in to what will be a 5 post blog series showcasing Hawai’i, The Big Island.  Back story - I was fortunate to be one of Fairmont Hotels Destination GoPro Heros and with this privilege came the task of filming our story and experiences at one of Fairmont’s North American resorts for three days.  The first blog post unveiled the luxury Joel and I enjoyed at Hawaii’s very own Fairmont Orchid, not something we are accustomed to but certainly worth experiencing. Read - 68 Hours of Hawai'i Part 1 Fairmont Orchid  Next up - Culture and you need not look any further than along the western and northern shores of Hawai’i. (After this I promise to get to the outdoor adventures unique to Hawai’i)
From touch down to take off, our time spent on the Big Island was 68 hours.  11 of these hours consisted of Joel and me exploring the history, culture, agriculture and taking in the diverse landscapes along the Kohala and Kona Coasts.  Being an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, obviously there is a need for growing and producing its own food.  The Big Island has mastered the perfection of growing coffee and nuts and it just so happens I am nuts about coffee!

Kona Coffee, a market name for coffee cultivated on the Big Island, comes from coffee beans grown specifically on the slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai.  The coffee plant originates from Brazilian cuttings that were introduced to Hawaii in 1828.  The Kona Coast provides ideal growing conditions; morning sun, afternoon cloud, and rich volcanic soil.  Better than any other region within the Hawaiian Islands.  Since we are both coffee drinkers, the plan was to visit a coffee farm but it just so happened that our visit to the Big Island coincided with Kona’s 44th Annual Coffee Festival.  So we did what any self-respecting coffee connoisseur would do.  We checked out the festival and drank some coffee.  Damn! The coffee was good.  Smooth, clean, and no bitter after taste at all.  I could easily go back to the Kona Coffee and Tea Company and sip cup after cup of delicious 100% Kona Coffee.

Fully alert and packing a sweet coffee buzz, Joel and I continued our cultural adventure with a scenic drive along Painted Church Road, a narrow windy road in Captain Cook territory.  Nestled in between churches and a peace sanctuary we stumbled upon Joe’s Nuts.  I am not making this name up, I swear!  Joe’s Nuts, a macadamia farm, is an eclectic mix of agriculture and interesting characters.  We never met Joe, if there even is one, but we were greeted with a warm Aloha by the lady of the farm.  We learned all about her nut farm, the collecting and processing of macadamia nuts, her goats, mango trees, vanilla plants and history of ownership of the farm.  Of course, no visit is complete without sampling some of the many different flavors of macadamia nuts.  Needless to say, the 100% Kona coffee macadamia nuts were my favorite! Brewed with Bills’ best coffee, (Joe’s brother maybe?) kissed with sea salt, raw sugar and vanilla.  Mmmmm.

Prior to visiting Hawai’i, my knowledge about agriculture on the islands included the obvious; tropical fruits, coconuts, and coffee.  Never did I consider the Big Island to be home to one of the oldest, largest, and most historic ranches in the United States.  Driving along Kohala Mtn. Road took us right into the heart of Parker Ranch country.  Founded in 1897 by an eighteen year old John Parker, his job was to bring the thousands of wild cattle that multiplied from the first 5 cows that were delivered in 1788, by Captain George Vancouver, under control.  The grazing lands and pastures that make up Parker Ranch provide a beautiful landscape.  Rolling open grass fields, scenic views of the Pacific Ocean off in the distance and Kohala Volcano, the islands oldest volcano, as a backdrop.  Such a contrast from the lush tropical forest and dessert like terrain of the Kohala Coast that border Weimea and Parker Ranch country.  These are only a few of the diverse landscapes that Joel and I were able to explore in the 68 hours of being in Hawaii.  We need more time!

The part of travel that I love best is talking with locals and listening to stories they tell about their history, their land, and their culture.  Stories like the one that was told to us by one of our cab drivers who was born and raised on Hawai’i.  Joel and I, being the typical tourist, asked about what it was like growing up with active volcanoes and had he ever been affected by lava flows? Not directly affected was his response but he did tell us all about Pele, the volcano goddess of fire.  How she had the power to create and destroy through lightning, volcanos, lava flows, and fire. Those who are greedy or unkind were punished by having homes or crops destroyed by lava flows.  She was known for her temper.  I’ll say!  Legend has it that if lava flow threatened your home, you were to clean it and present her with a beautiful gift and she would spare you.

Another notable historical tidbit that was mentioned to Joel and me by numerous people was King Kamehameha.  Had we seen the statue? Did we know about their most beloved Hawaiian hero? Because so many people had mentioned the King, we had to learn more and stop to check out the statue.  King Kamehameha was born on Hawaii, in North Kohala near Kapaau, in 1758.  The year Hailey’s Comet passed over Hawaii.  After many years of conflict between the Hawaiian Islands, in 1810 King Kamehameha was able to unite the islands and maintain peace and tradition values.  He was a great warrior that is respected and known as the monarch who founded the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Kings, gods, curses… these all seem to be part of history on Hawai’i.  Joel and I are not ones to sit poolside or play beach bums for a day while on vacation and certainly not with only 68 hours of vacation time.  Stories we are told while exploring has always been a large part of our family adventures and so is learning more about these stories.  A great place to relive days when those who broke kapu (sacred laws), defeated warriors or non-combatants could go to find refuge is in Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, a National Historical Park on the south Kona Coast.  It was a place where blood could not be shed.  A place where kahuna pule (priests) performed a ceremony of absolution so offenders could return home safely.  For a few hours Joel and I walked through the self-guided grounds, snapping pictures of old religious sites and temples.  My favorite feature of Pu’uhonua was the Great Wall, built in 1550 and is 10 feet high and 17 feet thick of stacked stones so tightly stacked, no mortar was required.  A flood of memories from our time on the Great Wall of China came over me.  What is that travel quote? I want to make memories around the world.
We wrapped up our cultural experiences with a Hawaiian Luau, traditional Polynesian feast and Fairmont Orchid’s presentation of Gathering of the Kings, a performance that retells the settlement of the Pacific.  We were taken on a journey throughout Polynesia; Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, and New Zealand, and how each chief would be linked to a star that guided them.  An entertaining way to explore dance, costumes and traditions throughout Polynesia.  This also served to be one of the few times we could explore the Hawaiian culture through food, like Poi and Ahi Poke.  So many wonderful dishes and the Mai Tai’s were pretty tasty as well.
That is it.  11 hours of Hawaiian history, culture, agriculture and landscapes explored, experienced, and sandwiched in between our 68 hours of Hawai’i.  Coming up on Parts 3 – 5.  It’s time to adventure by land, ocean and air to see for ourselves what Hawaii is made of.  Are those beaches really what some refer to as paradise?  Does Hawai’i really grow rock? And can I out swim a fish?  The final 20 adventurous hours of our 68 Hours of Hawai’i coming soon!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

68 hours of Hawai’i – The Big Island [Blog Series] Part 1 Fairmont Orchid

Over the next month or so, I will be writing a 5 post blog series showcasing The Big Island.  The culture, awaiting adventures, unforgettable tours, the diverse landscapes, wide range of activities and the luxury that can be enjoyed in 68 hours!  It may seem strange to explore and visit Hawai’i in 68 hours but we did and here is why.
I had the great pleasure of becoming one of Fairmont Hotels Destination GoPro Heros.  With this privilege came the task of filming our story and experiences at one of Fairmont’s North American resorts for three days.  I choose Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii and armed with a GroPro Hero4, our whirlwind adventure to Hawai’i and “My destination story” begins.  (Ariel shot of Fairmont Orchid) 
Unfortunately the trip could only accommodate two travellers and it was with great sadness we had to leave Ben and Liv home.  They would have had a blast adventuring alongside side us and I have no doubt we would have done just as much had they been with us. Good news though, we plan to return to the Big Island and finish what we started with them alongside us.
Out of the 68 hours spent on Hawai’i, 37 of those hours were enjoyed at the Fairmont Orchid.  I realize that my normal writing consists of outdoor adventuring in wild spaces on Vancouver Island and coping with accommodations that most people would find unacceptable.  Normally our travel accommodations involve either a tent or hostel, we are modest travellers.  But in the spirit of adventure and to fully appreciate the whole story; Fairmont Orchid needs to be a part of it.  I often say to Ben and Liv, embrace the adventure at hand and what comes with it.  I was willing to step out of my comfort zone and step straight into luxury.  And let me tell you, the Fairmont Orchid knows luxury.
Luxury began in our Executive Suite Ocean view room complete with a private bedroom off of living room, a gorgeous marble bathroom with tub and separate shower, two large closets that swallowed the items in our one piece luggage, and a half bath for our guests to use.  It was beyond more than what we needed but if Fairmont Orchid wants to make you feel special, their rooms certainly deliver.  Luxury did not end there.  The Fairmont Gold experience continues delivering hospitality with the 6th floor reserved for those wanting extra perks.  Here we found a private lounge, continental breakfast, afternoon tea, evening canapĂ©’s, and a dedicated Fairmont Gold Manager to take care of anything else.  Everyone should experience the 6th floor once in their lifetime.  We are grateful to have been treated with such a comfortable and elegant stay.  We will have fond memories of the 18 hours of blissful sleep had in room 2257. (View from suite balcony)
Being a Fairmont Destination GoPro Hero involved working with a team from Fairmont Orchid to assist with our pre-planning details.  If we are to film our story about Fairmont and Hawai’i, it is best let the people who know the island of Hawai’i provide us with their recommendations.  For weeks leading up to the trip my team and I did just that.  I provided them with an idea of who we are, what we like, and in turn they set out making sure our trip would be a memorable one.  I will write about those stories later.  The prompt and helpful service I received from “My Team” before arriving at Fairmont Orchid was amazing but the service and greeting we experienced while staying at the Fairmont Orchid was beyond amazing.  It was darn near magical. 
It was so good to finally meet a few members of our team for breakfast at the Fairmont’s Orchid Court, an outdoor garden patio style gathering place for either buffet or a la carte breakfast.  Jaisy (Director of Public Relations) and Darlene (Guest Services Manager) gave us a warm Aloha welcome and immediately we all hit it off as if we were friends catching up.   They were gracious hosts and went above and beyond what Joel and I expected.  The only thing that could have made meeting them more fabulous was having them join us on a few of the tours they hooked us up with.  To see them just as excited as us about what our three days of adventure was looking like was sincere and genuine.  Perhaps a reunion is in order, complete with a day of adventure together, because I love seeing excitement and passion for exploring in anyone who is willing.
These two beautiful ladies, along with the countless other Fairmont Orchid staff members, made us feel special and welcomed.  It seemed as though everyone knew what we needed before we did.  Fresh tropical fruit trays awaited us every day along with a personal note from my team.  Reservations were booked for us.  The bell desk knew our schedule and our vehicle was always ready waiting for us.  I thought perhaps we were getting more attention than usual, given our Fairmont Destination GoPro Hero status and VIP Concierge service, but some fellow travellers we met on a tour confirmed they too were treated special and were completely blown away with Fairmont Orchid.  They experienced two other resorts on two other Hawaiian Island’s prior to the Fairmont Orchid and had nothing but praise on how they too were treated.  Well Done Fairmont Orchid! (You had me at chocolate although the dragon fruit was a close second, and chocolate covered Kona coffee beans... ah heck.  I was smitten with it all.)
I will end our story of Fairmont Orchid luxury with two final highlights of our time at the resort.  Nothing is more romantic than dining at Brown’s Beach House, an AAA four diamond award winning restaurant.  The setting alone is award winning; just steps from the shores of Pauoa Bay, where one can watch Hui Holokai beach boys and beach girls light tiki torches throughout Fairmont Orchid as dusk settles and the sunset begins.  Beautiful.  Most of the sunsets we have experienced involve paddling a kayak or backpacking all day to camp along the coast of BC where we set up tents, cook our one pot meal, clean up and force ourselves to stay awake to witness the sunset.  Oh Fairmont Orchid, how I wish I could bring you and Brown’s Beach House with us on our wild adventures.  I can bring my own beach boy and beach girl, you can bring the rest. (Sunsets always on the menu)
The last highlight of Fairmont Orchid was one luxury that Joel and I know very little about and I am afraid the standard has now been set.  I have enjoyed a few spa experiences and Joel none so when an afternoon at the spa was recommended by my team, we figured we should take the opportunity and embrace the moments we are given.  Words cannot even begin to describe the Ocean Ali’i Experience at Fairmont Orchid’s Spa without Walls.  This is truly a spa experience like no other.  A Hawaiian lomilomi massage with a foot wrap followed with an absolutely amazing body compress of Hawaiian Herbs to encourage physical and mental relaxation called Awa, Earth and Fire.  So amazing! Then warm coconut oil and a cleansing herb poured over hair and scalp, called a Kahinu body treatment, which was beyond any relaxation I have ever experienced.  If that was not enough, a full scalp, neck, shoulder, foot, and hand massage using sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh essence.  Oh, and did I mention we were in an Oceanside hut?  No reason why we can’t incorporate some massages into our future adventures to remind us just how amazing this one was.  You never forget your first…massage. (Ocean side hale (huts) at Fairmont Orchid's Spa without Walls)
Darlene, Jaisy, Joan (who we finally met on our last day) and the entire staff of Fairmont Orchid have our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for everything we experienced in Hawai’i.  It was our pleasure to visit Hawai’i and Fairmont Orchid and will be hard at work putting together one hell of a video that will tell our story, a story that stays true to who Joel and I are.  Mahalo!
Want to know how we spent the other 31 hours on Hawai’i? It is a Big Island, all 4,028 sq. miles of it, and with it comes big adventure, diverse landscapes, a variety of climate zones, stunning beaches, active volcanoes and lava flows, an amazing undersea world, a rich history, and some of the friendliest people you will encounter during your travels.   There is one thing we know - islands and adventure.   And in Hawaii, the Big Island is the island for adventure.  Check back soon for Parts 2 – 5 of 68 Hours of Hawai’i.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

#tbt 2011 Discovering Haida Gwaii - Part 1

View of North Beach, our next adventure.
The view before me was nothing less than spectacular.  Located at the northern tip of Graham Island on Haida Gwaii sits North Beach.  A remote coastline where the only thing between the ocean and forest is sand.  It is met with East Beach which travels south for 90 km.  These two beaches are joined by Rose Spit, Canada’s longest sand spit formation, and separates Dixon Entrance from Hecate Strait.  As I stood on the viewing platform, halfway up Tow Hill, my heart began racing.  In less than 12 hrs, Joel, Ben (6), Liv (4) and I would begin the last adventure of our Haida Gwaii vacation.  We plan on hiking North Beach and hopefully making it to the end of Rose Spit.  Looking down at our final journey, the past 7 days started to flash before my eyes.

The journey began as a journey itself.  It takes 3 days to reach Haida Gwaii when travelling by ferry.  One day to ride the bus from Nanaimo to Port Hardy.  Another onboard BC Ferries Northern Expedition from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert.  A 16 hour sail thru the spectacular Inside Passage, beautiful even in the pouring rain.  Then the final 6 hr sail from Prince Rupert to Skidegate marking the end of day three.  With long days of travel behind us, we could now begin our adventure on Haida Gwaii.  While researching our trip, I read numerous times that residents are friendly and helpful.  This was quickly noticed during our time spent in Sandspit.  Due to poor weather we opted to stay at Captain Ron's Guest Studio and reassess our travel plans.  Zane, owner of Captain Ron’s, rolled out the red carpet by treating us to a salmon and crab supper upon arrival.  He offered use of his bikes, car and anything we else we might need while staying in the guest studio.  Zane’s idea of a red carpet however is more of a rustic, battered old rug.  The bikes looked kind of ride able, but I was not about to find out. The car wobbled at speeds over 60km per hour and the studio was a work in progress.  First impressions had me thinking “run now” but the experience turned out to be wonderful.  

Enjoying the sunset in Sandspit.
“Come on Mom!” shouts Ben.  Reluctantly I turned my back to North Beach and followed the troops to the top of Tow Hill.  It seems I am always at the back of the line watching Ben, Liv and Joel hike ahead.  It was no different hiking the Pesuta Shipwreck Trail near Tlell. (46 km north of Queen Charlotte City on Graham Island.)  The 10 km trail lead us thru a moss covered forest to the pristine Tlell River, along the dunes of East Beach and arrived at what remains of the Pesuta. In 1928 the Pesuta, a log barge, breached on the sandy shores while crossing the Hecate Strait during a fierce storm.  As gale forced winds crashed waves against the remnant bow, it became quite evident how the barge had sealed it’s fate. 

Approaching the Pestua shipwreck at the tail end of a gale force wind storm.
The remaining bow of the Pestua.
We made our final approach to the top of Tow Hill, a 357 foot huge outcrop of basalt columns formed by volcanic rock 2 million years ago.  Thankfully today the wind was not as strong.  Part of our adventure was to learn as much of the Haida culture as possible.  An interpretive sign told the story of Tow Hill, a tale of two brothers (mountains) whose mother gave a dog fish to only one.  The brother without the fish became angry and left, searching for a new place to call home.  Along the way he dropped rocks until finally resting alongside the Hiellen River.  Reading this story to the children instantly took me back to K’uuna Llnagaay (Skedans) and our experience with the Haida culture.

On the northeast corner of Louise Island is Skedans, a Haida village that, at its height, had between 26 – 30 longhouses.  In the late 1800’s more than 50 monumental poles and figures were recorded.  Getting to the ancient village site requires using one of many tour guide companies.  Moresby Explorers offers a zodiac day tour to Skedans with stops at an abandoned logging camp, old settlements and a pleasant trip through Louise Narrows.  Emily Carr was famous for capturing images of Skedans through her paintings and I recall images of frontal poles towering above longhouses in her work.  At the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, several poles are on display revealing the artistic talent of the Haida.  So when the zodiac made its final approach into Skedans, I was shocked by what I saw.  There are only a few carved memorial and mortuary poles left standing.  Others have fallen and are slowly being taken over by the land.  The detail on the few poles left standing is so deteriorated that without our tour guide pointing out the features, I would never had deciphered the carvings.  During the tour the children were respectful and attentive but both agreed the best part was the bumpy boat ride.  Splashes and all.

The bumpy zodiac ride.

Liv sitting amongst the last totems.

Leaving the top of Tow Hill’s viewing platform I said, “I can’t wait to start hiking tomorrow.”
“Me too.” Replies Ben.
“Me too.” Replies Liv.
We headed down exactly how we arrived.  Joel, Ben and Liv out front and me following behind.  I relived the past 7 days while walking up Tow Hill but now focused on the adventure ahead of us.  We have never hiked great distances along a beach before.  Were we ready?  Hiking along North Beach requires us to pack all our own water and we will be exposed to the elements the entire time.  Will the weather cooperate?  I wish I could answer all these questions ahead of time.  Instead I trust our experience and preparedness to get us through it all. 
to be continued…
Tow Hill
Article was published in the Nov 2011 issue of Take 5 Magazine

#tbt 2011 Discovering Haida Gwaii – Part 2

Our first steps on North Beach marking the beginning of our two day adventure.

Our first six days on Haida Gwaii were spent travelling, hiking, visiting museums, enjoying zodiac tours, discovering spectacular beaches, and meeting new people. Combine that with constantly carrying backpacks full of gear, clothing, food and water and you have four very tired adventurers.  These long days were taking a toll on the children (6 & 4 yrs old) and to be honest, us as well.  It was, however, not enough to stop us from backpacking for two days along North Beach, with Rose Spit as our destination. 

The day before our last adventure was spent relaxing and preparing our packs.  We set aside unnecessary gear, namely the 20 lbs of rocks and shells collected so far, to make room for food and water.  Our online research had indicated the Agate Beach Campground had drinking water available.  Knowing this, we did not buy or fill up our containers prior to arriving at the campsite. It came as a surprise when Joel went to fetch water and found a “Boil Water Advisory” notice at the tap.  So much for relaxing.  Now we were faced with the tedious task of boiling 10 litres of water in two small camping pots over our campfire.  Joel went straight to work building a fire while the kids and I collected driftwood and something resembling tumbleweed from the beach.  I’m not sure what the tumbleweed thing was but it burned quickly and made an excellent fire starter.  It also had a unique smell to it that I can not even begin to describe.  In fact it took me weeks to get the smell out of my hair and our clothes.  Regardless of the smell, we burned it all and within a few hours had our water boiled, cooled and stored. 

North Beach seems to continue on and on.
According to a Haida legend, North Beach is the site of Creation.  It was here Raven first brought people into the world by coaxing them out of a clam shell.  I now understand why coaxing was required... North Beach is intimidating.  It stretches as far as the eye can see; seeming as though you are looking at the end of the Earth.  Relentless are the waves rolling and the wind blowing.  Yet somehow the hard packed sand, perfect for vehicles, ATV’s and bikes, invites you to continue on, and on, and on.  After hours of walking, the children began to slow their pace, generally a tell tale sign a rest is needed.  Seeking shelter in a driftwood hut left by previous explorers, I was digging snacks out of my pack when suddenly I heard “PTOOEY!” followed by swearing.  “What’s wrong?” I asked. “The water tastes terrible!” Joel said.  He is generally not one to complain nor would he casually spit precious water out.  Something was wrong.  I tried the water and instantly tasted the tumbleweed smell.  The water we had spent hours preparing tasted like campfire.  Water we had to consume for drinking and cooking for the next 2 days.  Water we could barely swallow.  Everything after this point began to unravel.  Rest stops became more frequent and Rose Spit wasn’t getting any closer.  Considerably short of our intended goal for the day, we stopped and set up camp.  We watched the sun set over the waters of Dixon Entrance, dining on lasagne (with a smoky aftertaste), coffee (with a smoky aftertaste) and hot chocolate (with a smoky aftertaste).  With bellies full, the day’s shortcomings were forgotten and we concentrated on replenishing our supply of rocks and shells.

Watching the sun set over the waters of the Dixon Entrance
Day 1 campsite

The next morning, eating scrambled eggs and coffee (with a smoky aftertaste); we realized we were not going to make it to the tip of Rose Spit.  I found beach hiking to be mentally draining.  The end and start of the hike are never out of sight, making it seem as though you are getting nowhere.  I also never expected the wind to be such as factor, blowing constantly, taking our energy with it.  The plan for the day was to pack up camp, stash our gear in the bush, and continue hiking as far as we could go.  Once we exhausted all efforts, we would turn around; retrieve our gear and hike off North Beach knowing we gave it our all.  I’m not going to lie, it was a gruelling walk.  The children were worn out and we began offering piggyback rides.  My guess is we made it ¾ of the way to the tip of Rose Spit before calling it quits.  Now we were faced with the challenge of turning around and doing it all over again.

Where we made it to.  A shot looking back at Tow Hill which marks the beginning of our hike.

What felt like hours were only minutes when piggybacking Liv.  I was beginning to tire of walking, waves crashing and endless sand.  Off in the distance I noticed a quad approaching.  The lady driving it stopped and asked where I was headed.  I told her Tow Hill (where North Beach begins) and she replied, “Not like that.  Hop on!”  For a brief moment I was reluctant to accept her offer, determined to finish what I started.  I finally had to tell myself to swallow my pride and get on the damn quad.  Doris and her family were on North Beach collecting agates (translucent, semi-precious stones) and she had been watching us for a while.  She felt compelled to save us from our misery.  Liv and I enjoyed the quad ride with Doris while she shared stories of her rare and exciting agate finds.  Today she was searching for a pink agate, the rarest of them all.  Doris sent her husband Ken to fetch Joel and Ben and they dropped us off where we had stashed our gear.  We thanked Doris and Ken for the ride, shouldered our packs and set out to finish our adventure.  From here on, Ben and Liv bounded ahead finding one rare agate after another and soon we found ourselves at Tow Hill, where our adventure began.  It was here I took great pleasure in washing our new found agates with our smoky tasting water.

Aerial shot of North Beach, Rose Spit and East Beach joining.

 This article was published in the Dec/Jan 2012 issue of Take 5 Magazine

#tbt 2012 Haida Gwaii - A year later

Sunset in Sandspit, BC

It’s been almost a year since our amazing journey to Haida Gwaii.  A year ago all I could think about was finally getting a chance to see the pristine wilderness Haida Gwaii is known for.  The beaches are spectacular and the sea life abundant.  It is rich in culture and history plus has one of the most rugged coastlines around.  Never did I expect a year later all this would be threatened.  There is a huge possibility the waters, land, and sea life that make up the “Islands of the People” (the Haida name for Haida Gwaii) could be destroyed if the proposed Enbridge pipeline becomes reality.  That threat is an oil spill but I do not wish to debate the pipeline. 

There is another threat to Haida Gwaii.  This time it is the debris from the Japan Tsunami that is washing up on the shores of Haida Gwaii.  Joel was watching the CBC National when a story about the debris was aired.  CBC - Tsunami debris in B.C.  From the other room he yelled for me to come quick and we both sat in silence as images familiar to us were shown completely different from the way we had saw them.   I have stood on the beaches the news journalist was standing on.  I have heard the wind blow and waves crash just as they are in the footage.  Only way to describe it is powerful and beautiful.  A year ago there were no signs of such debris.  

North Beach with Tow Hill in background
North beach from top of Tow Hill.
The terrain along East Beach (where the debris is hitting) is not going to make it easy for clean up crews to access.  The waters are dangerous at the best of times so not sure if boats can aid in the clean up.  There are no roads to East Beach and the footage clearly shows the risk when one does drive on the beaches of Haida Gwaii.  (which is common on North Beach to Rose Spit to East Beach for some reason.  I thought it was odd.)  If the east side of Haida Gwaii is hard to access then what will happen to the west side?  By the end of the news story I felt helpless and sad.  

The Pesuta Shipwreck on East Beach
East Beach at the tail end of a wind storm

The people of Haida Gwaii are strong and determined.  I have no doubt they will come up with a plan and bring the beaches back to the way they once were.  It will not be easy and the volume of debris coming is indescribable.  We are fortunate to have travelled to Haida Gwaii.  It really is an amazing place.  Highlight of our trip was hiking along the Tlell River towards the Pesuta shipwreck, visiting Skedans, and backpacking North Beach.  Ok, that was 3 highlights.  If you love outdoor adventure you will love Haida Gwaii.  We do!

The Tlell River is breathtaking, even in these conditions.

Morseby Explores getting us to Skedans.
Totems at Skedans.