The Queen Charlotte Islands

Masset Travel Blog

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The view from the highway as we started biking towards Skidegate
Two days of driving took us by highway along the BC's beautiful Fraser canyon to Prince Rupert. It's not that great of a town, but it was our gateway to adventure: The Queen Charlotte Islands! We had found a motel near the ferry terminal where we could leave our car for the week and we took out our bikes, panniers and backpacks from our stuffed van and cycled the short way to the ferry terminal.

It's a great thing to travel by bike. You get those great looks from people wondering where you're going, where you've traveled from, what kind of monstrous hills you've climbed. Most of the time they ask us where we're from and we say "Vancouver".

"You've biked all the way from Vancouver?!? Wow! That's impressive!" they reply quickly.
Sitka deer are everywhere along the highway. Sometimes the deer with run alongside you for a while, while biking, before darting into the forest
For a moment, we relish their admiration. Oh yes, we've come a long way. You are spoiled with your motor vehicle and lack of awareness of slight inclines. But alas, the truth comes out. Actually we've biked from all the way down the street.

Our plan was to take the bikes on the ferry and make our way from the south of the Graham Island to west of Masset in the north where we had found a place to stay. The ferry across is about 6 hours over open water, and it was rocky. Countless seasick patrons hung out in the bathroom as the ship carved its way through swells in the water. Despite the communal motion sickness, it's a beautiful ride. The Queen Charlottes aren't known for their blisteringly hot days and sunny weather, so we didn't expect it nor experience it.
The stretch of highway from Tlell to Queen Charlotte City runs by the water. It gives a great view, but if it's raining, it gives little shelter from the wind coming from the ocean. I was pelted with raindrops on my way back!
The foggy air and overcast clouds are all part of their charm and we were grateful for it.

We arrived at Skidegate Landing, about 5 km from Queen Charlotte City, in the late afternoon and decided to start heading north along the highway. If you're planning to bike the Islands and are worried about getting lost, dont. There's only one highway, and if you find yourself back at the ferry terminal, turn arond, head the other way and you'll be fine. It's also a great destination for bikers because of the lack of traffic on the highway. There's a small shoulder, but passing cars have lots of room and will give you a wide berth. We had planned to stop in Skidegate at a grocery store to get some food for dinner... but alas, it was past 6 and only the gas station convenience store was open.
This outstanding canoe sits in the entrance of the Haida Heritage Centre
Puritan beef stew and crackers it is!

The rule with camping in the Charlottes is... basically camp wherever you want. So we managed to find a great spot by the beach that was clear past the high tide mark and a bit shaded from the wind so it wouldn't be too cold. We pulled out our camping stove and had a meal of hot beef stew and crackers on the beach as the sunset and eagles flew overhead.

The next day we made our way past Tlell (where we simply had to stop for lunch at a little bakery by the road - and where we ate with a guy we had recognized from the ferry the day before) and cycled our way up and down the hills to Port Clements. Finally a place with a real grocery store! We stocked up on a bit of food to last us the next day or so before finding a place to camp. Now we were tired at this point.
Beautiful sunsets
The hills had seemed endless and it was getting late. We wandered around a little bit, weary of where we'd be able to camp in the town. We saw a man drive past in his truck and pull into a driveway across the street and were tempted to ask if we could set up a tent in his backyard, but none of us had the guts so we continued to wander around aimlessly wondering what to do. A few minutes later the same man came out of his house and walked up to us. Apparently he worked for the town and knew of a campground a couple kilometres away. He told us where it was, and we reluctantly (a couple kilometres seemed a long way to bike with our tired legs!) got on our bikes. As we went down the road, the man passed us in his pick-up. "You're almost there!" he called out his window. He was there at the campground when we got there and was getting out some wood for us to build a fire.
The view from the highway as we started biking towards Skidegate
Since this was the beginning of our trip, we weren't too seasoned on making fires, so he showed us how and built us one in one of the fire pits, laid out the three types of wood, told us what is what and what burns longest, and gave us an identical kit with newspaper so we could make a fire again in the morning. What a nice welcome.

I guess Port Clements didn't get many visitors at that time of year, so we had the campground to ourself, complete with a large wooden gazebo. The man, and also the woman who came by later to collect the fee, told us we could set up our tent under the gazebo since it was supposed to rain that night.

The next day we set out for Masset, which is fairly flat for the last 20km or so, and stopped at a grocery store to bring out to the cabin we had rented 17km east of the town.
Food is expensive. That is all. The bike out to Rapid Richie's Rustic Rentals (I kid you not) is a bumpy ride on an unpaved road, but it's fairly flat so I won't complain.

We stayed out at the cabin for 4 nights and explored the area, including a daytrip out to Tow Hill and the Blowhole. We had underestimated the distance between the cabin and Masset and had consequently not brought enough food with us, thinking we could ride back out to Masset to get more. That's when the food rationing started. It wasnt too bad, we ended up having just enough food, and splurged with a meal at Moon Over Naikoon, a great little bakery about a hundred metres down the road.

We booked it back to Queen Charlotte City in one day (about 130km in all) and camped there for the night, giving us the next day to explore the town a bit before leaving that night.
Turns out there's not much to do in Queen Charlotte City, but the tourist information centre let us sit inside for a couple hours playing big two and reading every bit of information on the walls. Later in the afternoon we biked passed the terminal a bit to the Haida Heritage Centre and wandered around looking at the great Haida art on display. One of the pictures I posted is of a row of preserved foods in jars. The jar on the right is a bit of an Islander's inside joke left by an unknown contributer. When explorers first came to Masset, one of the items they traded was soap. Unknowlingly, the people in Masset ate the soap thinking it was a delicacy, which is why they are sometimes get the nickname "Soap-eaters". (I hope I'm getting that story somewhat correct)

The ferry ride back to Prince Rupert is overnight, so the majority of people will bring sleeping bags and pillows and just camp out on a free spot on the ground.
We scouted out a spot, laid down our sleeping bags, and grabbed some of that great BC Ferries food... We ended up meeting Reuben, a guy from Smithers working in Prince Rupert on a fishing boat, living on the Queen Charlottes. Eventually the cafeteria people kicked us out, and we headed back to our sleeping bags. It was late, but I ended up staying up a couple more hours talking with an eccentric father and son pair.

We got back to Prince Rupert, and suddenly, it wasn't so "not that great of a town" anymore. This time, we saw it as having all the luxuries we didn't have on the Queen Charlottes - including our car! We would spend the rest of the day (we got in a 5:30am, so we had a lot of time), doing laundry, getting groceries again, and contacting parents as cell phone service is non-extistence on the Islands (except for 3 very specific spots we've heard).

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The view from the highway as we st…
The view from the highway as we s…
Sitka deer are everywhere along th…
Sitka deer are everywhere along t…
The stretch of highway from Tlell …
The stretch of highway from Tlell…
This outstanding canoe sits in the…
This outstanding canoe sits in th…
Beautiful sunsets
Beautiful sunsets
The view from the highway as we st…
The view from the highway as we s…
We biked to Tow Hill and hiked the…
We biked to Tow Hill and hiked th…
The beach is a 50 metre walk from …
The beach is a 50 metre walk from…
Before we realized we should be ra…
Before we realized we should be r…
A small exhibit by the cafe at the…
A small exhibit by the cafe at th…
Masset
photo by: silan