Spirit Lake Trail, Haida Gwaii

Sep 03, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Lion

We anchored off Queen Charlotte City just as the dawn broke across the islands of Haida Gwaii, and had our first look at this remote and fascinating archipelago.  After breakfast we got into our Zodiacs and went ashore for a morning outing by motor coach to the Haida Gwaii museum complex.  It was a gorgeous sunny day, even T-shirt weather.  We were greeted by a young Haida woman and then taken on tour through the amazing displays of the museum and told wonderful stories about the totem poles and giant canoes on display on the grounds and in the canoe shed.  Our guides were so knowledgeable about all aspects of Haida life, art and crafting and answered all our questions—even the probing ones.  My personal favorite display was the exquisite war canoe carved by the famous Haida carver, Bill Reid. 

We had lunch onboard and then went back ashore for another short bus ride, this time to the Spirit Lake trailhead to explore a bit of the interior of the island.  There were our normal hike options: long, medium and short, along a well-maintained trail.  It started in dense lowland woods of red alder, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and yellow and red cedar with a thick understory of edibles: salmon berry, thimble berry, salal berries, and red huckleberries.  A mile or so up the river valley (some of it quite steep) we came to Spirit Lake, which is actually two sweet little lakes surrounded by some huge old-growth sentinels.  One massive yellow cedar would have taken 8 or 10 of us to reach around it and there were others, red cedar and spruce, almost as large.  We were surprised at the number of local people on the trail until we realized that it was also Labor Day in Canada as well as in the United States. We were back onboard for a delicious dinner followed by a fun and informative talk by our local Haida guide, Barbara Wilson.  All in all, a wonderful beginning to our special visits to the seldom-visited islands of the Haida people.

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About the Author

Larry Hobbs


Larry has been involved in marine mammal research and natural history education for over 45 years.  His undergraduate training is in zoology, with graduate work in marine biology.  He also holds a master’s degree in psychology and is a certified counselor in the State of Washington.  In addition to his academic training, Larry has spent many years at sea, including two years as mate or master aboard open-ocean sailing ships.  Larry is a professional photographer and his photographs have appeared in Europe, Asia, Australia and Mexico as well as the United States.

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