Western Sunsetter Haida Gwaii Rally

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In June 2019, twelve LTVs meet at the RV Campground in Prince Rupert before taking the ferry to the Haida Gwaii Islands in British Columbia, Canada. We had seven vans from British Columbia, three from Manitoba, one from Alberta, and one from Saskatchewan. Some arrived June 4 and some on June 5. We spent those two days touring the area, getting supplies, and greeting old friends and making new ones.

June 6

Early in the morning, we set out as a group to the BC Ferries dock where it was all aboard for our 7-hour ride to Haida Gwaii. The weather was overcast with some rain, but the seas were fairly smooth so we didn’t experience any seasickness. We were told the Hecate Strait which we had to cross can be very rough.

After disembarking at Skidegate, we had an 8-kilometre drive to the Haydn Turner Campground in the Village of Queen Charlotte. When we arrived at the campground, there were only six campsites. Fortunately, each campsite was large enough for two LTVs. Our campground was right next to a cemetery and just a 2-minute walk to a beautiful beach.

June 7

This was our first full day on the islands. We did a bus tour to Port Clements with our guide, Marla Abbott. We stopped at lots of attractions including Balance Rock, Jungle Beach, St. Mary’s Beach, Lake Mayer, Port Clements Museum, Yakoun River Pub for lunch, Golden Spruce Trail, Sitka Studio, and Crystal Cabin. Marla had lots of information and stories about each of these stops.

Back at the campground, we had a pot luck fish fry. Bill Harder had purchased a large amount of halibut from a local, which he and Roger Prevost proceeded to cook for our group. What an excellent meal! We also celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary of Ken and Carol Scheske of Kelowna, BC that evening. June 7 was their actual anniversary day, so we were all happy and honoured to be able to celebrate it with them.

June 8

We spent most of the day at the Haida Heritage Centre. There was an excellent museum there. Raven Ryland, who works there, gave us a tour of the totem poles, explaining the purpose of and symbols on the different poles. She was very knowledgable about the Haida culture. She explained why the island’s name was changed to Haida Gwaii from the former name of Queen Charlotte. Haida Gwaii means “islands of the people.”

Many of us also stopped at the Skidegate Farmers Market where we bought cookies, pies, jams, and handicrafts.

In the evening, we loaded onto our hired bus and went to Keenawaii Kitchen on the beach in Skidegate. This was the home of Roberta Olson, a Haida woman. We were served a traditional Haida meal and then enjoyed a little entertainment by some of her servers on the front deck. Unfortunately, another group was booked in for a meal about two hours after us so we could not linger on to enjoy her home and distinctive front yard.

June 9

Our boat trip to the southern islands was canceled due to heavy seas, so we had a day to explore on our own. In some ways, it was nice to have a day with no definite plans to enjoy on your own. My wife and I discovered the gallery of Ben Davidson, a Haida artist, and were amazed by his works on display. Of course, we ended up buying a piece.

That day, Bryan and Wendy Makepeace were given four large Dungeness crabs by a local, and Terry and Donna Day were given a fresh spring salmon. Late that afternoon, Bryan cooked up the crabs and salmon and shared those gifts with the rest of our group. Many of us did not need to make supper that evening because the crabs and salmon, along with a few snacks that appeared, provided most of us with the equivalent of a light meal.

June 10

Today was our second bus trip with Marla Abbott. This was a full day taking us to the north of the islands to Old Massett and the North Beach. The day was wet with rain falling most of the day.

Marla talked about several local characters, Indigenous rights and benefits, and the Haida culture and how it blends in with the non-Indigenous population on the islands. The attractions that we stopped at today included Pure Lake, Sarah Hillis Gallery of Haida Arts and Jewelry, Agate Beach, Tow Hill, The Blowhole on North Beach, a local cemetery, and the Massett Visitor Centre. We picked agates on the beaches and saw lots of eagles and dense forests covered in moss. The scenery was outstanding; in fact the rain probably enhanced it. On North Beach was a mile marker for Mile 0 of the Yellowhead Highway (#16), which stretches all the way east to Winnipeg, MB, more than halfway across Canada.

June 11

Ten of our twelve vans boarded the ferry early that morning for our trip back to Prince Rupert. Two of our vans chose to stay on Haida Gwaii for a few more days. The 20 of us who went on to Prince Rupert on the ferry had a farewell supper at Dolly’s Fish Market that evening after settling into the Prince Rupert RV Campground. The next morning we all went our own way, some departing for home and others on to other adventures.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip where we became better acquainted with the rich Haida culture of these islands off the north coast of British Columbia. A very special thanks must go out to Roslyn Dixon, who did so much of the pre-planning for this rally. Unfortunately, she and her husband were unable to participate in it. Her planning efforts made all of our experiences so much richer.

The participants in this caravan rally were Barry and Lorraine Abbott (MB), Tolek and Krystanna Bocko (BC), Terry and Donna Day (BC), Bill and Helen Harder (MB), Norm and Hazel Lavoy (SK), Tim Morris and Helena Helmsley (BC), Bryan and Wendy Makepeace (BC), Roger and Angel Prevost (MB), Ken and Carol Scheske (BC), Jeff and Hillary Shardelow (BC), Bruce and Colleen Shippelt (AB), and Walter and Delia Sutherland (BC).

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