Hiking without a trail: The art of “Bushwhacking”
Hiking on Haida Gwaii is wonderful.
Hiking up on Mount Moresby. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
However, when one lives here, the choice of trails can be limited and while a few weeks on the islands means you will be able to do most established trails, if you stay for longer you might run out of new hikes to do.
Deer in the alpine. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
Even established trails are often only suggested "routes", and can be just a path in the forest that blends with animal tracks for the most part. Navigational skills in the forest are very important here. For some hikes, a compass is advisable and every year, hikers get lost in our woods, wether they are experienced or not.
Dense deep woods. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
For the adventurous type, the next level in hiking means you have to venture completely off trails. To reach a summit, a lake, an alpine area, a remote beach or cove, you have to "bushwhack".
An old logging road makes for an easy path to follow. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
This is a fairly common term on island and many people are familiar with the concept. The terrain can very challenging in some areas and you do need more than a general sense of direction to be able to navigate in some areas. What is particularly challenging is actually the young second growth, areas that have been logged fairly recently and where the young low vegetation makes it very hard to hike through. Similarly, huge patches of Salal can be an almost impassable barrier. Of course the terrain itself can be challenging, with cliffs, rivers, rocky outcrops, etc.
Cliffs on Mount Moresby. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
Most hikers tend to gain altitude fast and get to the" alpine" (past the tree line), where it is usually fairly easy to se where you have to go. The shores as well are a favourite for hikers as it is usually easier to follow a shoreline, even though salal patches and cliffs are sometimes a huge challenge.
Dark woods on Moresby Island. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
I have been on a few little expeditions on island.
A family outing on Haida Gwaii. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
I did go once with a local family on a hike that was essentially all "bushwacking". The purpose of the hike was to get to an area where on a clear day, one can see the West Coast, above an inlet call Security Inlet. There are some possible connections from those ridges we were going to and we would have liked to explore the possibility of exploring the area.
Climbing up through the "bush". Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
The area we started walking from was at the end of some fairly recent but rough logging roads in the Deena basin, on Moresby Island.
Up on a ridge. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
We started off in fairly low vegetation and followed by foot some older logging roads that had become overgrown and impassable by vehicles.
At one point we went off road, and straight up along a creek. It was a pretty steep section.
Hiking up. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
We reached a ridge within a very pretty forest, where trees were spaced, the ground mossy and wet, and then, it got steeper, still within that forest of tall trees. The mist was everywhere and engulfing the forest in patches of dense fog at times.
Picnic in the forest. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
Reaching the summit, we were deep in clouds. No views. But a nice challenging hike up.
Passing the treeline. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
We came back down the same route.
Coming back down. Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
This kind of outing is common in island, and people explore their islands extensively. It is easy to understand the strong connection people here have with their environment, the land and ocean: it is ever present and if you really want to explore the wilderness in your backyard, you have to get wet and dirty and truly "feel" this place.
Photo Credit: Flavien Mabit
It is always a pleasure to be out in nature here.