Balancing on the edge of the world

It is possible to get lost on an island with only 120km of paved road.Riding Haida Gwaii

I just did…

For about 6 weeks.

Haida Gwaii lies right on the edge of the continental shelf and about 100km from the mainland.

And even though it’s small there is a lot to see and has a fascinating history!

So far I barely scratched the surface.I made it in the paper

I’ve been intrigued with the people, the nature and the lifestyle. And the huge differences of those on such a small surface.

Imagine a place with no fast food restaurants, no coffee shops, not even cell phone service…

…Welcome to Port Clements.Port Clements

A small logging town in the middle of Graham island.
Port lies on the Masset Inlet and gets some super spectacular sunset’s.Port Clements Sunset

It’s a central location and from here you can go on hikes, kayak trips, ride bicycles (or quads) or just enjoy a beer on the deck at the local bar.

The golden spruce was a big attraction here, this 300 year old Sitka spruce appeared to be golden due to a genetic mutation.

The Haida people called it Kiidk’yaas, or ancient tree, and it was an important part of Haida culture and creation mythology.

on the Golden Spruce Trail

In 1997 Grant Hadwin swam across the Yakoun river with a chainsaw and felled the spruce.

It was a political statement against industrial logging companies.

A book was written about the event and the history, a very interesting read.
Reading the Golden Sprucea movie has been made too

Just after arriving on the island I received an email, if I would like to try a new tent…

“Hell yeah!” Was my immediate reaction. I’ve been drooling over this tent for years and now Mrs Hilleberg herself suggested I try it out!Hilleberg Staika

I whooped and danced a little and was pretty happy altogether. On top of that the universe gave me another spectacular show. Hilleberg tent and Aurora

The cycling here is easy-ish.easy ridingMost of the roads are pretty flat and where the big mountains are, there’s no roads.

Except into Rennell Sound.Into Rennell Sound

The only place on the island where a logging road takes you to the west coast. With a 25% gradient it’s a bit of a push on the way out…Bit of a push

There are four different parts of the Island.

There is the rugged west coast, the old growth rainforest, the beaches and the mountains.

I cycled to the west coast and pitched my tent at Bonanza beach for a night,

Riding along logging roads you want to watch out for these monsters.Logging TruckI didn’t have too much trouble as I can hear them coming from 3 miles away.

When I saw a sign that said ‘Yakoun Lake’ I decided to cycle up that way, it was only about 2 km before the road petered out and a 15 minute hike through some beautiful forestBeautiful Forest 

took me to the loveliest little beach I’ve seen! 

Yakoun Lake

I decided to drag all my gear in and camp here for the night. my campThere was no wind and it got really warm with the sun out. My camp!

And I was all alone, which was absolutely wonderful. This is my favourite little camp on the island so far.gone swimming

The boat that sat there was a bit leaky, the best place everbut nothing that cannot be fixed with duct tape.a great day

Staring at the hills across the water made me wanna climb them.tent beach hills

So I did.Top of Sleeping Beauty

(you see my lake on the far right side in this picture)

From up the mountain I could see Moresby Island, Charlotte City and even all the way up to Tow hill at North beach!

I had cycled up North beach before but was told about a hiking trail that takes you through the forest out to Cape Fife, on the east side of the island.Cape five trailSo I set off on a sunny morning to check out the trails, it was slow as there was a fair amount of mud, Taking a breakBut I enjoyed the walk a lot! And when I got out of the forest and onto East beach I was really impressed with the lovely cabin that is there for people to stay the cabin If only the mice would’ve stayed out of my food it would’ve been even better.

The aptly named ‘East beach’ is 80km long and would be a great hike on its own.a long walk on the beach

There’s big tides out here, so when heading out on the beaches or the water you’ll have to know when to go. I had one river to cross that wasn’t a problem as the tides were out.

There’s a lot to see walking along the beach, bottles and floats from Japan and other far away places, and lots of logs have washed up on the shores. Just a bit further down the beach a whale had stranded too, but I never got to see it.

I walked all the way up to Rose Spit.Rose SpitAccording to Haida legend, the Raven found himself alone one day right here.

He saw an extraordinary clamshell and protruding from it were a number of small human beings. The Raven coaxed them to leave the shell to join him in his wonderful world. Some of the humans were hesitant at first, but they were overcome by curiosity and eventually emerged from the partly open giant clamshell to become the first Haida.almost there

Cooper Wilson is a Haida artist whom I’ve met on the ferry to Rupert about 9 months ago!

Back then he’d told me I must visit Haida Gwaii one day.

And if I do make it, come and say hello.

He lives in Masset.Mural

And he makes beautiful argillite carvings.Cooper Wilson

He also showed me how to dig for clams, Clam digging on North BeachI quickly realised why they’re called ‘razor clams’ as it didn’t take too long to have my fingers all cut up digging them out of the sand…

Back in Masset I’d heard about a ‘Potlatch’.

A new Chieftain was being inaugurated and to celebrate there would be a feast of song, dance and food.

Everybody was invited. So people came from far and wide to attend, the Haida people are mostly on Haida Gwaii, but there’s some on the mainland and up in Alaska too, it seemed everybody was here now.Busy at the Pot Latch

I haven’t seen this many people together anywhere else on Haida Gwaii yet.

Everybody was served food and the dancing was amazing,

Here a few short clips to give you an idea.

You don’t find the fast food, but you go clam digging, or get a few crabs at the harbour from the fisherman that just came in,crab

there are berries and wild mushrooms.

I tagged along with some people from Port to find a few, and we came back with 56 pounds of chanterelles!

We sold most and didn’t waste much time before spending all the money in the bar… Bye Rubble!That just seems to be the thing to do.

Then there’s lots of deer, people go hunting and fishing.

I didn’t do any of that, but I was lucky to run into some people who had and were happy to share their catch with me!


Also the fresh produce that’s farmed over here is beautiful.

A lot of it comes from the few mennonite families that live on the island.

I had spoken to some of the girls and am curious about their lifestyle. So when I got invited to come along to a church service I did.going to church

It was interesting although I can’t say I agree with everything I heard.

It seemed busy to me, there are only 5 or 6 families that attend the church but there must’ve been about 75 people. Thats because they have many children.

The family I’d met earlier was happy I could make it and invited me over to their place for dinner.

They live across the inlet and the only way to get there is by boat. We saw a beautiful rainbow on the way over.rainbow

The only way to get on shore dry is to pull the boat out with a tractor.Tractor Pulls boat

I ended up staying for 3 nights and helped in the gardens.

I was ask not to post any pictures of the family on the internet. As they don’t use or like the internet, television or radio.

Living there for a few days made me feel like being in the Netherlands in the 1800’s which isn’t too strange as that’s where a lot of the mennonites that moved to the US and Canada came from. Some families speak ‘Plattdeutsch‘ which I can almost understand.

They have the whole family of 4 daughters and 3 sons working on the farm where they grow corn, squash, beans, onions, pumpkins, carrots and they have a lot of fruit trees too.

Daily life consist of praying, singing, eating, working and sleeping. It’s nice having such a large family, you got an instant choir. But they do not use any musical instruments.

Then they look after a whole bunch of animals.

There are chickens, cows, sheep, turkeys and pigs.Turkeys

They don’t drink coffee, tea or alcohol. I had a severe headache the first day which made me think I should probably lower my caffeine intake a little bit.

I learned how to milk a cow.Me milking a cow.

We had a lot of talks as there is no other form of entertainment, it was great sharing some of my experiences and learning what’s important in life for this family. It was also good to see both boys and girls were involved in all chores.

One day we decided to hike up a mountain.bushwacking

It was an interesting experience as it was a first for me to walk up a mountain in dress and gumboots.

And where I’m kindda used to taking trails, we were on a bushwacking type of hike. big tree

We didn’t make it to the top as it got a little steep and slippery and hanging on ferns while the ground is slipping away underneath and rocks come tumbling down wasn’t exactly my type of fun. But we all got down safely and it was an adventure for sure!

I wish I could’ve stayed longer.

But I have to think about visa’s and all that hoo-ha.

So I have to leave, all I can say is thanks to the people of Haida Gwaii!

It was a wonderful lesson and a great experience.Me here.

One day, I might even return…North Beach Sunset

(yes. that is a threat 😉

43 thoughts on “Balancing on the edge of the world

  1. I am one of your followers for some time already. I love your pictures, especially on this article. I was wondering myself “Where did she left her bike while hiking uphills? Did she hiked for more than one day, i.e. leaving her bike locked but unattended overnight?”.

    Keep it on and best wishes.

  2. This is fantastic! I can see why you stayed so long. I love the fact that the island has no internets or cell phones. What a magical place to experience. Are there bears there? I would think not. How do you like the tent? I am considering an Akto by Hilleberg. How much does the tent weigh?

    • Oh, there is internet! just not where I was staying, same with cell phones, if you’re based in Masset or Queen Charlotte city you’re fine… Port Clements just not 🙂 Yes there are bears. I’ve only seen one in my whole time there. The tent is a little on the heavy side (nearly 4kg), but not that much more than the one I’ve been dragging around with me before!

  3. With the Visa running out, does that mean you are heading down to the USA now M and and you now back on the Mainland?
    The Queen Charlottes are an absolutely spectacular location as you have learned.
    as you know I spent some time up there a few years back.
    if you are heading south some how or some route , keep us in touch and we would love to meet up again.
    we are heading to Vancouver for an early Sinterklas celebration at the end of Nov 29.

  4. Amazing stuff as usual Mirjam ! It’s amazing how beautiful the world is when you just say ‘yes’ to things. Thanks for sharing all of your stories with us, and letting us see your perspective through your wonderful photos. We’ve been inspired by your tales from the road for quite some time now and are in the process of preparing to leave on our own permanent wanderings. All going well, we will leave from Australia in January/February. Maybe we’ll see you out there somewhere. Have fun and stay safe.

    • nope. that’s it. Would’ve done a great job on those ice roads a few months back… in fact maybe I should find me some more of those, but not too worry, I’m sure another winter is right on the doorstep 😉

  5. Wat een geweldige foto’s weer! Het is altijd weer leuk om je blog te lezen en ook de foto’s te zien, vooral als we al eerder contact hebben gehad en je er al wat over verteld hebt. Liefs!

  6. I was biking in last September from Whitehorse down to Vancouver (via Prince Rupert and the ferry to Port Hardy). So, I can imagine easily the beautiful landscapes of Haida Gwaï. I was not there, but I had the chance to be in Vancouver in time to see the new movie about this island “Haida GwaÎ On the Edge of the world”
    At the end of the film, all the public stood up for a long ovation….
    I do the same for your pictures.
    Paquito Perez from

  7. You are such a hero! A powerful super woman! Great article in ‘de Wereldfietser’. And as always, great photography. It’s a ‘pity’ I am cycling myself so I can’t keep up with your blog. I hope soon I will read the ‘winter story’ in the tent, while the rain hopefully soon turns into snow.

  8. I get so excited when I see a new post on this blog, and yet again this latest one doesn’t disappoint. What am amazing place and what incredible experiences you are having. Keep on pedaling and keep on posting…..more often please! 🙂

  9. Thank you for posting these great blogs! From staying at a quiet little beach, to all the people at the inauguration and working with the mennonite family… It’s all really inspiring and accomplished with such great pictures. Your blogs are a treat every time.

  10. mirjam how awesome was it to spend a few min.. with you on Whidbey Island. Hope you made to Anacortes and enjoyed the cookies.

  11. I could spend an eternity on that island! Such a great place. Cycling around places like that to explore and just soak in everything can be quite the experience. Thank you for the story and the pictures!

  12. Enjoyed your story about your visit to Haida Gwaii. My place of birth , I was especially intrigued about the Mennonite people . Thanks for sharing , Haawa.
    Lee Ottenbros

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