My Weekend Getaway: The Hiellen Longhouse Village Experience
By Kara Steel
After an academically intensive few weeks in Queen Charlotte, myself and a large group of equally mentally exhausted student friends gathered together some funds, packed our bags, and headed up the highway toward the Hiellen Longhouse Village. We were all looking for a weekend adventure where we could blow off some steam, have some adventures, and in general have a great time together without having to worry about essay deadlines. Upon arrival at the campground I knew right away we had come to the right place as even though it was the winter season it was still stunningly beautiful and the air was thick with the smell of cedar. We rented two cabins for a total of four nights that we were able to split amongst 10 people comfortably. I didn’t have any bedding with me when I arrived but I was able to rent a clean and very warm sleeping bag for $10 dollars from the campground manager.
Our first night in the campground was a wild one as a few other students, and myself included ventured into Masset for the Valentino’s Cabaret, which is an annual Valentines Day celebration full of music, poetry, dancing, and even a bit of burlesque. It was an absolutely incredible event that I would highly recommend to anyone spending time on Haida Gwaii during the winter season.
The morning after the Cabaret I was very happy to wake up in the warm cedar cabin in a comfortable bed knowing I had a full three days of adventuring ahead of me. Although I was tired out from my night of dancing I decided to get up, make some much-needed coffee, and start exploring the campground and beaches. I made my way down to the path towards the beach where I was surprised to find some of my student friends already up and beach combing in the pursuit of agates. The long stretch of beach towards Rose Spit from Hiellen campground seemed to go on for miles and miles and I was absolutely stunned by how spectacular it all was. That afternoon I discussed with my group the idea of hiking the beach the following day and attempting to reach Rose Spit. There were only six of us willing to do the full trek and so we set out the following morning knowing we would have to be smart about the tide. I will openly admit we did not plan this beach walk properly whatsoever. After almost two and a half hours of walking along the beach we all sat down to have a rest and looked longingly at our end goal that didn’t really appear to be getting any closer.
Guy Kimola / Haida Gwaii Photos
At this rest stop three of us, myself included, had to remove our shoes because we had not worn proper footwear and it was becoming painful to walk. It was also at this rest stop that we realized only two of us had thought to bring some kind of snack, although thankfully we all remembered to bring our own water. As we evenly distributed the 1 package of seaweed chips and 1 fruit source bar amongst all 6 of us we started discussing what our next move should be. We all wanted to reach Rose Spit but it was starting to feel like it may not happen. We noticed a truck driving towards us along the beach and we were able to flag it down. The men inside the truck were locals of the Tow Hill community who were out for the afternoon to do some clamming on the beach. We asked them how far we still had to go to reach Rose Spit and they told us at least another few hours of walking. It then started raining, and we all immediately turned toward one another and started laughing at the ridiculous situation we had put ourselves in. We decided right then and there it was time to turn back, so we thanked the men who had helped us, and we began the trek home in the rain. That night over a delicious meal in our thankfully warm and dry cabin, we all laughed together about our adventure on the beach that day. Although we were unsuccessful in our attempt to reach Rose Spit we all agreed we would want to attempt it again.
Even though my feet were still incredibly sore from my beach hike, on our last day on the campgrounds, I forced myself to walk up the path to check out the Tow Hill look out point. It was just as stunning as people had told me it would be and as I looked out at the ocean I knew this would be a place I would definitely return to someday.
Guy Kimola / Haida Gwaii Photos
For anyone looking for a weekend getaway that can provide both adventure and relaxation, I highly recommend spending some time at the Hiellen Longhouse Village. I would also like to share some lessons I learned from my beach hike experience which are as follows; pack enough food and water, wear proper shoes, prepare for some rain even if the sun is out, and always make sure you know how much distance you’re planning on walking in advance. Although the beach at Hiellen is incredibly beautiful and full of interesting things to see (including a small shipwreck), the length of it is very deceiving.
I will definitely be back.