The terms and conditions for a BC Ferries ticket are crystal clear:
"Arrive at the terminal 90 to 120 minutes prior to scheduled departure"
Still, I wasn't that concerned about hitting the 120 minute mark when the time came to leave Terrace. It was a cool 1.5 hour drive from there to the ferry terminal, which seemed like a completely OK amount of driving to do before a 10:30 AM ferry. I just had to get to the Prince Rupert Ferry Terminal on Kainen Island, and from there, take a ~7 hour ferry to Skidegate Landing, Graham Island, Haida Gwaii.
Do the math and you'll find that I merely had to check out between six and seven. Which I did. And I hit the dusty trail. And realized I probably forgot my book. And turned around. And collected my book. And left again. And waisted some of that precious buffer time.
And, then, I was back on my way along the Yellowhead Highway, through beautiful peaks of the Costal Mountains, along the Skeena River, and past many lovely lakes.
The moment I crossed the Galloway Rapids Bridge onto Kainen Island, I left mainland North American behind. I would spend the next 10 days visiting Haida Gwaii, and several days after that on other islands. Other than a detour to a historic cannery, I was about to spend roughtly ~17 days island hopping. (For some definition of island hopping.)
I figured that petrol would be pricier on Haida Gwaii -- it had to take the same ferry I did -- so, I gassed up in Prince Rupert, and drove directly to the ferry terminal. The line of cars stretched far beyond the gates.
Here's a map roughly showing the ground I covered:
The fainter, dotted lines on OpenStreetMaps do correspond with ferry routes.
Hurry Up & Wait
It was hours before I got to the end of the ferry line & eventually squeezed my station wagon into a narrow turn-around on the top car deck level. By hours, I mean at least an hour after our scheduled departure.
I made my way to the top of the deck and did my best to admire the scenery.
Two more hours passed.
The rumbling was that the departure was so slow because they were severely understaffed.
Someone kicked down the sign prohibiting passengers from going to the ferry's top deck. No one ever put it back up, so folks were free to hang out by the engines. I'm not sure why the top deck was closed in the first place, because there is nice seating up there.
Also, I made friends with a cowboy.
Around 2:30, four hours after our scheduled departure, we were out of dock and on our way -- past the industry of Prince Rupert.
Seven hours of sailing had begun.
Eventually, Haida Gwaii was in sight. Its appearance coincided with birds, and passengers' eagerness to get off the boat.
Mad Dash to Misty Meadows
I had made no reservations on Haida Gwaii, and I got in fairly late. A logical person might have headed to one of the first come, first serve campsites in Daajing Giids, nearish to the ferry terminal.
On the other hand, I am not logical, and felt a bit annoyed by how many hours I had spent in the Prince Rupert Ferry Terminal. There were things that I had imagined myself doing during my first day on Graham Island, but daylight and time were no longer on my side.
After stopping at the islands' only traffic light, I headed North. I decided I'd just see how long I felt like driving for, and I'd stop when I felt like stopping.
The answer was... not a lot. I stopped at one of the few gas stations for an ice cream bar, but it was not a sufficient pick-me-up. When I got near the Misty Meadows Campground, in the southeastern section of Naikoon Provincial Park, I decided to call it a night.
I picked a campsite, set up my tent, and was surprised to find that the park operator was quite punctual in popping up to collect my provincial park fee.
My energy levels were low. I admired the beach, admired the sunset, and spent a little while thinking about where I was, and what I might do.
And with this, I'm taking a hiatus from writing about this trip.
It's been a fun and challenging exercise to do my best to convey the natural beauty in so many of the areas in Canada that I've passed through so far.
It is an even more challenging exercise to justice to the beauty of Haida Gwaii, to convey something of the rich, living Haida culture, and to share the ways in which I felt touched and transformed by my visit.
Stay tuned for more -- probably before the end of this calendar year.
I'll be taking a break from writing these posts, but trust me, it will be worth the wait.
Thanks for reading!
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