Thursday, November 20, 2014

#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


  1. I appreciate your candor in your writeup! Sounds like it was amazing, but challenging and the nasty water was the kicker. : ( Glad you could get a quad ride back and have a relaxing time collecting agates. : )