(continued from Part 1: Solo in the Canadian Rockies)
The Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) is remote set of islands off the northwest coast of British Columbia. As is a region that I’d been intending to visit for ages, the difficulty in getting there made it elusive despite many years of good intentions, but as they say: good things come to those who wait. This whole bicycle tour arose around the idea of exploring the ancient forests of the islands by bicycle with a friend from Vancouver. The before and after fell into place as a way to make the most of the energy spent getting to these places, thereby extending the tour into a loop that contained a little bit of everything. And so it was here at Canada’s west coast that I went from being solo to meeting my smiling friend who flew up with her bicycle.
With its sparse population, the Haida Gwaii has few services, never mind roads. Graham Island in the north, the largest and most populous of the archipelago, is the only island with a paved road. With the exception of a few rogue logging roads and the ferry connected Sandspit Airport, it’s actually the only island in the region with roads, period. For obvious reasons, this is where I aimed my bike tires. With only 109km of paved road from Queen Charlotte City in the south to Masset in the north, the scale of things is a lot more accessible to travel by bicycle than in some other places. However, that so-called accessibility is provided by a network of rough, challenging logging roads cutting through the wild and dense forest. Over two weeks, we logged 579km of pedal powered exploration that took us to all four corners of this remote part of the world – not bad for an island with only 109km of paved roadway.
It takes two days by the northern rail line to reach Prince Rupert on Canada’s west coast. This lone vein of transportation cuts through thick Canadian wilderness with manmade marvels built to cross roaring rivers and pass through solid rock. There is something magical about the Skeena region towards the coast…moving mists amidst pristine wilderness – I’ve been through it twice, yet will definitely return.
From train to boat, one moves from the mist of the land to the mist of the sea at Canada’s west coast. Shrouded in nothing but foggy grey, it feels like one is in a child’s storybook, moving through a mystical portal to another land.
Fog clears and first glimpses of the long sought after Haida Gwaii come into view.
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