SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – January 2013

Canada: Treasure Island

You don't have to travel across the world to get off the map. British Columbia's Haida Gwaii boasts uncharted coastline, seaside hot springs, and more sea lions, whales, and bears than you can count.

by: Ted Alvarez

Welcome to the Galapagos of North America. (Photo by gwaiihaanas.com)
Photo by BP0113HG_GwaiiHaanasKayak_bjk_445x260
Welcome to the Galapagos of North America. (Photo by gwaiihaanas.com)
Haida Gwaii's black bears, grown significantly bigger (Photo by C. Cheadle/SuperStock)
Photo by BP0113HG_Bear_SuperStock_22123_bjk_260x445
Haida Gwaii's black bears, grown significantly bigger (Photo by C. Cheadle/SuperStock)
Ancient totems of the Haida people (Photo by John Marriott)
Photo by BP0113HG_marriott__QueenIslands_bjk_445x260
Ancient totems of the Haida people (Photo by John Marriott)
Maximize sightings by looking at the right times and blending in. (Photo by Paul Morrison)
Photo by BP0113HG_Morrison_eagle_0154_bjk_445x260
Maximize sightings by looking at the right times and blending in. (Photo by Paul Morrison)
Haida Gwaii's Bald Eagles, another example of island gigantism (Photo by Paul Morrison)
Photo by BP0113HG_Morrison_Eagle_bjk_445x260
Haida Gwaii's Bald Eagles, another example of island gigantism (Photo by Paul Morrison)
Haida Gwaii's starfish grow huge. (Photo by G. Osborne/SuperStock)
Photo by BP0113HG_Star_SuperStock_58173_bjk_445x260
Haida Gwaii's starfish grow huge. (Photo by G. Osborne/SuperStock)

"Why are those logs staring at us?"

The question sounds absurd until I look beyond the rolling aqua-blue breakers to see what my girlfriend’s talking about. Sure enough, in the kelpy soup 30 feet off the beach where we’re standing, two logs that each look to be at least 900 pounds pitch, roll, then stop to gape at us with open mouths and black eyes the size of eight balls. They’re threatened Steller sea lions, close enough for me to count canines and whiskers. The pair bobs and checks us out, decides we won’t snatch the herring, and then resumes cruising the intertidal buffet table that stretches from here to Alaska. We gasp and cackle at our luck, positive that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into the private life of a rare marine predator—until it happens again 10 minutes later.

Everywhere I go on Haida Gwaii, an island archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, it’s the same story, just different species. The typical scene: Six feet below my paddle, I can see a platoon of beet-purple Dungeness crabs looting a rockfish carcass through Stoli-clear water, and a quick scan of the foggy crags ringing this inlet shows one, two—no, four—bald eagles circling for salmon in wide arcs. The slick gray dome and snout of a curious harbor seal that’s been tracking my progress for more than 30 minutes periscopes 10 feet off my bow. He gives a Labrador’s snort of approval and disappears with a soft plunk.

We’ve been kayaking on the fringes of Canada’s Gwaii Haanas National Park long enough now that I should be used to the fin-and-feather crowd pressing in from all sides. But it’s day three of a nonstop nature bender, and I’m still drunk off the idea that you can spot more wildlife in 15 minutes here than in a week in Yellowstone. The encounters are also more surprising than in Wyoming: Thanks to an abundant, year-round food supply and the quirks of island biology, species like bears, eagles, and crabs grow bigger than their mainland cousins—while others like Sitka deer adapt by getting smaller. The size extremes represent a unique evolutionary duality known as island gigantism/dwarfism; Haida Gwaii is one of the best places in the world to observe it firsthand.

We first experienced this ecological funhouse on day two. After beaching our boats in pea gravel and tromping into the temperate rainforest onshore, we surprised a jet-black bruin sitting Buddha-like atop an old-growth stump. He capered through the ferns, shot us a lazy glance, and flopped on a nurse log the size of a Winnebago for a nap. I guessed him at about 350 pounds—no slouch on the mainland, but a relative flyweight here, where black bears grow 25 percent bigger than anywhere else. Minutes later, a deer the size of a greyhound flitted through a nearby grove of huckleberry bushes.

And not a safari bus or ponchoed camera-clicker in sight. Since arriving, we haven’t seen another kayaking party or shared a beach camp yet. “Where is everybody?” I ask our guide, Steve Konik. “Is it always like this?”

“Oh, not always—I’ve seen four other kayakers,” he says in his pronounced Canadian accent. “In a month.”




Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Trekking in Nepal
Feb 28, 2013

Acute Trek Pvt Ltd an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable adventure that you have been dream of. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We, Acute Trek Pvt Ltd are here to offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.
http://www.trekshimalaya.com
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/trekking_in_nepal.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/teahouse_trek.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/kathmandu_pokhara_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/high_pass_treks.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/luxury_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/helicopter_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_region.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_base_camp.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_panorama.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/ghorepani_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/jomsom_muktinath_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_circuit_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/tilicho_lake_mesokunto_pass.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/upper_mustang_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_region.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_base_camp.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_panoramic_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/gokyo_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/gokyo_trek_everest_base_camp.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/renjolatrek.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_kongmala_trek.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/three_pass_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_trekking_fr_jiri.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/langtang_region.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/langtang_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/gosaikunda_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/helambhu_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/tamang_heritage.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/chisapani_nagarkot_dhulikhel_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/cultural_treks.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/langtang_gosaikunda_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/ganjala_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/peak_climbing_in_nepal.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/peak_climbing.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/high_pass_treks.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/nepal_for_all_season.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/package_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/island_peak.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/mera_peak.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/pisang_peak.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/mustang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/upper-mustang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/lower-mustang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/package-tour.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/annapurna-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/annapurna-base-camp-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/everest-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/gokyo-trek.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/langtang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/tea-house-trek.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/three-pass-trek.php

Star Star Star Star Star
Trekking in Nepal
Feb 28, 2013

Acute Trek Pvt Ltd an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable adventure that you have been dream of. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We, Acute Trek Pvt Ltd are here to offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.
http://www.trekshimalaya.com
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/trekking_in_nepal.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/teahouse_trek.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/kathmandu_pokhara_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/high_pass_treks.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/luxury_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/helicopter_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_region.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_base_camp.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_panorama.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/ghorepani_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/jomsom_muktinath_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_circuit_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/tilicho_lake_mesokunto_pass.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/upper_mustang_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_region.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_base_camp.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_panoramic_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/gokyo_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/gokyo_trek_everest_base_camp.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/renjolatrek.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_kongmala_trek.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/three_pass_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_trekking_fr_jiri.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/langtang_region.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/langtang_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/gosaikunda_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/helambhu_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/tamang_heritage.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/chisapani_nagarkot_dhulikhel_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/cultural_treks.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/langtang_gosaikunda_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/ganjala_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/peak_climbing_in_nepal.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/peak_climbing.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/high_pass_treks.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/nepal_for_all_season.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/package_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/island_peak.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/mera_peak.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/pisang_peak.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/mustang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/upper-mustang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/lower-mustang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/package-tour.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/annapurna-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/annapurna-base-camp-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/everest-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/gokyo-trek.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/langtang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/tea-house-trek.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/three-pass-trek.php

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Your favorite backpacking photo
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: Echo
Trailhead Register
Stick is fine
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: JasonG75
Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions