SG_idlii G_andlee K'yuu Hike

After travelling for a while, Nang Kilsdlaas Hll.nga Supernatural Raven had himself born into the village beneath Nee Kun. There he grew up in a family of SGaana Killer whales, amongst the many SGaanuwee supernatural beings inhabiting the worlds. At some time Taaw Tow Hill walked from Juus Kaahlii Juskatla to join them. Today he is the most conspicuous of the SGaanuwee, towering above the coastline. On the foreshore beneath him Kwahtsiisda tosses swell high into the air. To their west are the jagged stones of Yaagan Kún, a rocky point. Haida Gwaii's many creatures tuck into its sheltered corners, wheel above it in search of food, or snack amongst its tidal pools.

At least ten bustling Haida villages flourished among the epic landmarks of Gaatsguusd the McIntyre Bay region. Long stretches of shoreline provide bountiful seafood of all kinds. Behind these beaches old growth spruce, cedar and hemlock support dense understories full of berries. Above these rainforests xil medicinal plants thrive in vast bog environments. Salmon rivers run through and nourish all these ecosystems.

SGidlii Gandlee K'yuu is one such salmon river. A walk along its banks, from its mouth on the sandy seashore to its source in southward marshes, will bring you through the diverse ecosystems of Gaatsguusd. For millennia, ease of access to these various environments helped Haida thrive.

In recent history, a surge of settlers also established homes in the area, starting around 1907. According to islands historian Kathleen Dalzell, settlers had pre-empted Gaatsguusd's entire coast, from Gaw Masset to Nee Kun, by 1911. Although the region is far from ideal for farming, Dalzell says it was one of the most intensively-settled areas due to the long stretches beach, which settlers used as a road at a time when there were few other transportation options. Many of these settlers left when war broke out in 1914, and never returned. Today, the area lies within the Naay Kun Protected Area. The settlers’ cabins have disappeared back into the forest. But a few trails are still used. At SGidlii Gandlee White Creek, partway between Gaw Masset and Taaw Tow Hill, you can hike inland along a trail that follows an old settler road, complete with ditches dug by hand over 100 years ago.

This is a relatively laid-back hike that can be as long or as short as you want to make it. The muskeg is a fascinating ecosystem filled with small ponds, tiny old-growth trees, several varieties of thick, plush moss, and delicate bog flowers like xil kagann Labrador tea and ta'inaang k'uug Sundew. It’s easy to spend a couple of hours exploring this hidden realm.

The trail starts at the south side of the White Creek bridge, 17.5 km east of Gaw Masset along Taaw K'yuu Tow Hill Road, and is well marked with new black and yellow salmon-head trail markers designed by tlajang nang kingaas Ben Davidson. There is a small parking area on the northeast side of the bridge; the trail starts at the southwest side. The first section winds through forest and crosses a creek, then heads upwards. As you gain elevation, you will find yourself in the muskeg. On a clear day, from some spots, you may be able to catch a glimpse of Taaw Tow Hill to your left. To your right, the land slopes gently downhill, resulting in views of the interior plateau and eventually the small Heralda Lakes. You may be tempted to leave the trail to explore the mossy areas – just be sure to keep track of where you are and leave a visible marker to guide you back to the trail. The trail will continue through forested sections alternating with open areas of muskeg.

You can hike as far as 4.5 km inland before reaching the “End of Trail” sign, but you can also turn back before that point – or continue on. The trail is not marked past this point, so GPS is a must if you plan a longer trek. As with any hike on Haida Gwaii, you should bring the basics and be prepared for wet conditions: hiking boots, water, high-energy snacks, and rain gear.