Discovering Haida Gwaii

  • Mar. 4, 2013 2:00 p.m.

Over the next few weeks, several of the HG Higher Education Society’s Haida Gwaii Semester students will be submitting articles to share some of their favourite stories, lessons and experiences. Our first submission is by Miki Eslake, who studies Environment and Sustainability with UBC’s Department of Geography. I’m not sure what expectations I had when I floated into Skidegate on the ferry from Prince Rupert, but Haida Gwaii has certainly surpassed all of them. For me, it is the perfect mix of wild, comforting, different, and familiar. Being from Pemberton, BC, I’m used to the small town atmosphere and have come to love it. After spending a few years in Vancouver, it’s refreshing to find those laid back attitudes and easy smiles again here on Haida Gwaii. However, there is also the added bonus of being able to spot sea lions every day on the way to school. Not to mention knowing that there will always be at least one eagle in the tree at the end of my street. Or being able to eat freshly caught crab at a potluck. These are only a few of the unique experiences I’ve had so far, and I can hardly even say that they’re the best just because everything else has been so great, too. I was drawn to Haida Gwaii by the desire to explore more of the province that I have grown up in, and when I heard about the HG Semester it seemed like the perfect excuse to visit. So far, this has been one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. During just this short time here, I, along with my classmates, have been lucky enough to explore many different parts of these beautiful islands. Some highlights for me have been assisting (although admittedly that’s kind of a loose term – at least in my case) with trail building at Spirit Lake, spending a weekend at Moresby Camp, and watching surfers in Masset (one day I’ll be brave enough to try it myself). Most recently, I hiked the East Beach trail with a few classmates. It was quite the adventure – we survived a vicious windstorm (even the tent made it out alive – albeit barely), navigated our way through sand-covered driftwood in the dark, posed with the weather station (there are a few geography students in the group), and successfully made it to the tip of Rose Spit. All these experiences have been unbelievably great, and I hope to keep them coming. However, the best part has definitely been the open-armed welcomes we have been faced with wherever we go. We’ve had the incredibly fortunate opportunity to meet many wonderful locals from all over the island through both our classes and personal experiences. Being here has certainly reminded me that a place is only as beautiful as its people, which is perhaps why Haida Gwaii is so stunning. Seriously. It’s so gorgeous I can’t stop taking photos. If you see somebody wandering around with a camera looking like a stunned tourist, it’s probably me.