Haida Gwaii is over 2,500 kilometres from where I live.
My journey will start with a six to 8 hour car ride from Camosack (Victoria), on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, to Gilakas’la (Port Hardy) on the northern part of the island. I start my day in Coast Salish territory and end it in Kwakwaka’wakw territory, passing through the homes of over 30 first nations groups on the island. There’s a great interactive map on the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations website for those would would like to learn more.
My night will be spent at the North Coast Trail Backpackers Hostel. Over the years, I have come to know the people who own it. They are always very kind and work hard to accommodate the different people from around the world who pass through their doors.
The following day, at about 5:00 AM I will head to the BC Ferries Bear Cove terminal. The ferry goes all the way to Prince Rupert but on this trip I will be stopping in Heiltsuk territory in Waglisla (Bella Bella). The ferry ride is about 6 hours. The route will take me through the First Nations territories of the Tlatlasikwala, Wuikinuxv and Heiltsuk. I always watch for Namu (a Heiltsuk word for “place of high winds) along this route. It is one of my favourite places, and my swim to Namu one of my most significant.
I plan to spend two weeks at Drifter’s Cove just across from preparing for the swim in Haida Gwaii. It is in Heiltsuk territory where I first started to use the waterway as a way of understanding reconciliation and my part in it. I am grateful to the Heiltsuk Nation for all they have taught me. You can learn more about my swims in their territory on the Great Bear Swim website.
After my stop in Waglisla I will need to get back on the ferry and head to Ts’msyen (Prince Rupert). The voyage will take about 10 hours and I will travel through First Nations territories of the Kitasoo, Gitga’at and Metlakatla. I am excited to learn more of these territories and the possibilities of immersing myself in the waterway, especially the waters of the Kitasoo. I have long wanted to swim from Klemtu to Waglisla. It will be a great opportunity to explore the possibility.
Once I arrive in Ts’msyen I will need to spend a day or two there before catching a ferry to Haida Gwaii, Skit-ei-get. The Hecate Strait crossing 8 hours. The last time I was by this waterway was last summer where I camped on Calvert Island after swimming across Fitz Hugh Sound. I will never forget the massive swells as my crew and I journeyed back the following day to Drifter’s Cove.
So there you have it, about 5 days to get to Haida Gwaii, all through some very beautiful places.