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)

My interest in Haida Gwaii spiked when I mentioned it to a few more worldly adventure writers than myself—folks who spend their weekends traversing Mongolia on skis—and got a collective “Haida what?” in response. Can’t blame ’em: Though it’s only 80 miles off Canada’s Pacific coast, Haida Gwaii (previously known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) gets perpetually bypassed for the cruise-ship-frequented shores of nearby Alaska, just 50 miles to the north. Getting to the island chain is also logistically challenging enough that the spoils remain a step removed. That said, it’s a quicker trip from Seattle—just six hours by plane and train— than a journey to Denali.

Separated from the B.C. mainland by the roiling Hecate Strait and tucked under the crook of Alaska’s panhandle, the 150-plus islands that make up the Haida Gwaii archipelago resemble the Olympic Peninsula if you tore it off the continent and dunked it in the wild North Pacific. Where sandy beaches and limestone cliffs end, skyscraping forests of Sitka spruce, hemlock, and western red-cedar carpet the steep flanks of these islands in arboreal camo. Until recently, tourism was an afterthought behind logging and fishing. But thanks to ongoing efforts by Haida natives (more on them later) and locals to protect much of the area as national and provincial parks, the doors are swinging wide for adventure travelers. If you’re looking for a Lost World, these islands—isolated since the last Ice Age—fit the bill in every way that counts: geographically, biologically, and culturally.

As I paddle past the snaggletooth ridges of the San Christoval Mountains in late August, the peaks are still tattooed with snow, looking much meaner than their 3,900-foot elevation would suggest. Here on the western coast (portions of which are still uncharted), the fjord-cut mountains tumble into the ocean, where bulldozer waves assault the shore.

Haida Gwaii’s dramatic geography is matched only by its lush and supersized ecosystem, which begins at ground level with the rivers and salmon. Massive spruce trees keep streams cool enough in late summer for the waters to swell with pink, chum, and coho salmon runs. Animals from sea slugs to starfish to sea lions gorge themselves. Without competition from brown bears, black bears get the choicest bits of the feast, and grow massive jaws and nearly two-inch teeth. They drag salmon carcasses inland, where eagles, ravens, pine martens, and other scavengers grow huge on the protein boost. (Bears in just one river system carried more than 13,600 pounds of salmon 500 feet into the forest during a single below-average spawning cycle.) When the salmon finally rot and fertilize those enormous trees, the cycle begins anew.

But to see all of these behemoths, I first had to negotiate some monster seas. Twenty-four-foot tides erase safe takeouts and five-knot currents suck burly paddlers out to sea; Southeasters boil over the mountains, even in summer, to clot the horizon. A small-craft advisory is permanently in effect. I’m ready to be trained for seagoing warfare, and expect our guide to be a paddle-wielding drill sergeant. So I’m caught off-guard when I first meet Konik, looking mellow on a yellow-sand beach, where he’s frying up just-caught rockfish in cornmeal and grilling sweet potatoes.




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
Picture Rocks, MI
Posted On: Jul 24, 2014
Submitted By: Hungry Jack
Gear
Need a New Pack!
Posted On: Jul 24, 2014
Submitted By: Tigger
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