Camping in Gwaii Haanas was part of our 7 day kayaking trip. To visit the area, people need to be with an approved guide. The guide determined where we would go each day and where we would land for lunch and for setting up camp for the evening and coordinate that with weather, currents, winds, and low vs high tides.
We had two guides. Our head guide was a superwoman. All of the folks on our tour mentioned this at once time or the other. She managed the navigation, read the charts, planned the routes, re-planned the routes when weather changed, and knew all of the great camping sites in the area. She negotiated with a person who caught a huge fish at Ninstints for a large enough chunk to cook us for dinner that evening. She managed the food for the week and provided amazing meals. We also had a second guide who was a bit younger and helped with the cooking and cleaning and provided instruction for paddling techniques.
The Art of Finding the Right Spot
Although this was thought of as a kayaking adventure, camping was a major part of our Haida Gwaii trip. We packed our tents and gear on to our kayaks every morning and paddled to the next destination with the exception of the final campsite where we slept for two nights. Camping can be tricky. The guides may plan to paddle to a site they desire but upon arrival there may already be a different group camping there. That only happened once on our trip as it is unusual to see other people since there are very few groups over a vast amount of area.
One of the key elements to picking a good tent site is being closer to the beach to avoid bugs. Other group members claimed the beach spots quickly so we tended to be a bit deeper in the woods. One benefit to being in the woods is that is I got to hear a bear while I was out there alone. Another benefit is that the woods are really interesting and the mossy floor is very soft to sleep on. We fought the bug issue by using bug spray and bug wipes on the tent which really reduced the mosquito population in the vestibule. The beach side campsites have the benefit of the breeze. It helps to dry the tent fly and other items that got soaked in the prior night's rain or while paddling. In most of my camping photos there is laundry hanging from the trees as a reminder of how wet everything was.
Clean Water and Intertidal Zones
The islands that had a water source were buggier than the ones without. Our group carried a large number of water bladders which carried us through the night at waterless camps. After a few days we learned the secret to the best water from one of the other folks on the trip. He had been filling his water bottle at the waterfalls (more like a water trickle) and then purifying it. The guides treated some of the bladders' water while others remained untreated. The untreated water required individuals to purify their personal bottle contents with a SteriPen (a magic wand that lights up and gives you a smile face when it is done purifying your water).
Gatorade mix was provided to cover up the flavor of the treated water. I found that to be the best solution early on but towards the end it appeared as though the Ziplock bag of mix was getting low. The next day it was completely gone. I knew someone hoarded it for themselves but I was not sure who. I was pretty disappointed as I had become accustomed to the flavored water. Then, on the last day, the younger guide asked me to grab her water bottle she left on the beach. I saw the orange fluid in her water bottle and realized she had the rest of the Gatorade! I would recommend bringing your own drink mix on the trip.
One campsite had an outhouse, but the floor was rotting through and the thought of the consequences made me decide to skip it. The bathroom was the intertidal zone. One of the doctors in the group commented that that was the same water we were using to rinse our dishes after washing them. It was suggested that this might be the reason a number of us had become unwell but the younger guide told us it was our poor hand washing skills.
When we started out the trip, one of the guides told us not to use the water from the water bladders to wash our hands; it was for drinking only. I used wet naps to clean my hands as the packing list had suggested and stored the used ones in a Ziploc bag to burn later in the campfire. After a buch of people were sick, they finally let us wash our hands with the water from the bladders and use the camp soap. It felt so good. I am not convinced people became unwell due to poor hand washing skills, especially considering the number of doctors on the trip. I suspected someone's poor dishwashing skills because there were plates that had prior meal's food bits still on it. It was pretty gross.
The trip we went on had the best camp food one could imagine. The first breakfast was pancakes and syrup. Real syrup. Another morning we had made-to-order eggs. We pulled over to a beach each day where the guides provided lunch. Some of the lunches were very fancy with a make-your-own-salmon-bagel buffet with large amounts of cream cheese, capers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and salmon. Another day we had quesadillas and burritos for lunch. They even provided snacks on longer days with cheese and crackers and even smoked oysters. My favorite dinner was the rice with Thai peanut sauce.
They had a portable "oven" and made a pineapple upside-down cake for Bill's birthday and a few days later we had a lemon poppyseed cake for another traveler's birthday. They also baked brownies on one of the cold and rainy nights which was a real treat. On the last night we had s'mores around the campfire. Despite the hours and hours of paddling every day, it is unlikely that anyone lost weight. That was OK because the made-to-order egg breakfast on the last day was worth no being skinny. It's the little things that make vacations great.
One of the camps we went to had a stream that was a short distance from our tents. We brought camp soap and towels and took advantage of the cold stream to bathe after 6 days of salty seawater coating our skin. It felt great and when we got back we gave the soap to another couple so they could feel just as good as we did. There is something refreshing about bathing outdoors, although it could be the frigid cold water that makes me believe that.
The best parts of some of the camps were the tidal pools. We really enjoyed investigating the sea life up close in the little pools on the rocks. One of the people in our group knew so much about the sea creatures and could name everything. She also knew what to pick up and how to pick it up. She really made the trip extra special; we had the best group one could hope for. They camping was beautiful, the kayaking was wonderful, but being with our group for 8 days and 7 nights was a rare treasure.