To Haida Gwaii.

Formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands, the people of Haida Gwaii took back the name of their island and their heritage.  They have been inspiring examples of how a First Nations group can take back their culture.

I am sure Steph and I were not alone in not knowing where or what the islands of Haida Gwaii were or represented. I find us Canadians are so spoiled with the riches of a vast and beautiful country that we overlook so much of its beauty.  Haida Gwaii is breathtaking in both scenery and culture, it is an absolute must on anyone’s travel list.

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The Haida people were a clear highlight of our trip to the islands. They were so friendly and had such a strong sense of culture. It was inspiring to hear them talk about their ancestors and their history.  Archaeologists and their elders agree that their people have lived on the islands of Haida Gwaii for over 14 000 years. Their stories and oral history line up remarkably well with the fossil record. For example, they tell a story about a great beast that was more fierce and destructive than any black bear they knew. It killed many men and was sighted mainly on one part of the island. Researchers later went into the area and found a cave with the skeleton of a grizzly bear (which are not native to the islands). Around the skeleton they also found several arrow heads!

On our boat tour with Haida-Style Expeditions, we were taken to Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. There we met the Watchmen, Haida men and women who took posts on various important islands to protect them and their artifacts from tourists and also serve as interpreters. A local elder named Jags guided our tours of the islands, telling stories of his people. He was a powerful speaker and only struggled when trying to keep the ancient stories of his people brief, or when talking about the atrocities his people endured.

Haida will do anything for someone in need. A legitimate form of transportation found in travel books and blogs is to hitchhike! They loved to show off their land, tell stories, and share their culture. We attended Skidegate days in a small town and were welcomed into the festivities.

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Another of our highlights was attending “Dining with the Kings”. A retired couple hosted people in their home for a night, serving gourmet food in a 3 course meal. Their dining room was transformed on weekends into a 20 person dining lounge! It was an amazing and intimate experience that was just so typical for Haida Gwaii.

We were quite sad to leave the island and no doubt will be back sometime in the future!

To Party Hardy.

Port Hardy, BC was the first stop on our journey.  It is nearly as far North as you can get on Vancouver Island. Port Hardy is a mining, forestry and fishery blue collar town.  It had its hay-day long ago and has been trying to recover ever since.

PORT HARDY!
Port Hardy by the sea!

We would not have picked it on the map because we probably would not have found it. My best friend had moved out 4 years ago and was the primary reason for making it our first stop.

Our home was a 1 minute walk to Story’s Beach. The sandy shore was the perfect setting for evening walks, and also prime ground for crabbing at low tides.

The first night I was on call at Port Hardy I came in at 3am to assess a patient who eventually needed to be sedated and I placed a breathing tube due to severe pneumonia. Then had to wait a few more hours until a plane could land at the little airport. The medicine there was rarely boring to say the least!

The hiking was amazing there! Our best trip was out to Raft Cove via the Mackjack river.

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The adventure started with a 3 hour driving with 4 of us crammed into the front seat of my friend Chris’ truck. We saw plenty of black bear as we wound our way down the maze of logging roads until we got lucky and found the overgrown trail head in the middle of the wilderness.  With a paddleboard, canoe and kayak we weaved our way for 2 hours down the tidal river until we hit shore at Raft Cove. We surfed, had fires, walked down the beach and had such an amazing time!

I would go back to Port Hardy in a heartbeat. It was a quaint little town on the edge of the wilderness with no shortage of adventures!

 

To Run Away.

“It’s a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
-JRR Tolkien

I have always felt a yearning to explore and travel. To see new things, try new things, and learn new perspectives. I was never fully able to pursue these because I was on a career path laid out in stone. Bachelors, post-grad, residency, each flowed into the next. There were always small changes in direction but little in the way of big decisions.

During this time and in my work with the public, I saw people stuck in jobs, houses, relationships and situations they didn’t like. Feeling trapped, it seemed like many felt no agency to change their circumstance, or were not hardly even aware they had accepted their lot in life. (To be sure, I am not referring to those who cannot change their situation). I imagine a hypothetical life where they went through the motions, got a job, bought a house, got married, needed to keep working to support their house and marriage, maybe accepted a job they didn’t love for financial stability. That is when inertia sets in. It can be painful and difficult break from the routine of life, and it is far easier to accept one’s fate and trudge onward.

My mind filled with these thoughts, Steph and I decided to run away for a little while.

My job as a family physician affords us freedom in working nearly anywhere in Canada with financial stability (minus the crushing debt I incurred). We were carried out of a comfortable way of life in Saskatoon, and started our work-cation. Buying a sea-can for short to long term storage of our possessions, we drove over 2000 km to Port Hardy, BC on Vancouver Island. With some stops at our parents homes and Vancouver on the way.

The trip also turned into a foray in minimalism. Everything we needed we had with us in our little Toyota Matrix, along with all the necessary camping and hiking equipment, our hobbies, and the bare minimum for clothing.

A last highlight for me was our total lack of end-game planning. We had no idea where we’d end up besides Port Hardy and Whitehorse. We didn’t even know how we were going to get to Whitehorse, but this is probably a story for the next blog.  We are well into our journey now and still don’t have a settled plan for what to do next. I love the freedom and sense of adventure this instills. A lack of plan opens up the space to listen to my desires and truly pursue that which means most to me. It tears down all the excuses that keep me from truly being creative and active in deciding my future.