We arrived in Queen Charlotte City, which is located on Graham Island in Haida Gwaii. Haida Gwaii is an archipelago of islands 50 miles off mainland British Columbia and is the ancestral home to the Haida People. The Haida have been living on these islands for more than 12,000 years.
Our first stop of the day was to the Haida Heritage Centre, situated on the ancient village site of Sea Lion Town. (Skidegate). One statement sums up the mission of the center: “To inspire understanding and respect for all that Haida Gwaii is.”
The center was built behind six totem poles that were raised in six days in 2001. Each pole represents a village that once thrived on Haida Gwaii. The center itself was built to resemble the traditional oceanside village that once stood in its place. The 50,000-square-foot building houses the Haida Gwaii Museum, performance house, carving shed, canoe house, Bill Reid Teaching Centre, and a spacious glass welcome house. The museum offers insight into and a chance to explore Haida culture and knowledge. Their oral history is preserved in their stories and art. Totems, carvings, canoes, weavings, and other exhibits meld nature and culture into one.
After lunch we switched gears and divided into groups to hike a rainforest trail that went up to Spirit Lake. It is a well-maintained trail and we took our time exploring the beautiful forest with our cameras. We enjoyed the musical background of a flowing stream as we slowly ambled.
Salal berries and huckleberries were ripe for the picking. Gigantic ancient tree stumps from long ago logging served as nurse trees for Western hemlock and Sitka spruce. Birds were calling but hidden in the dense foliage. Five different fern species were abundant, mosses covered the ground, and mushrooms were everywhere. It was an enjoyable walk for everyone, whether the destination was a brisk march up to the lake or an exploration of the trailside flora.