Sunrise in Haida Gwaii
Sunrise in Haida Gwaii. Click image to enlarge
Tiguan Road Trip, Part 1
Test Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan
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Article and photos by Paul Williams

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2012 Volkswagen Tiguan

Arriving in Haida Gwaii at 6:00 AM with one’s sweetheart is both romantic and perplexing. It’s romantic because the place is drop-dead gorgeous with the sun rising over the ocean and all. It’s perplexing because I don’t think anybody in Haida Gwaii was actually up at 6:00 AM, which meant no coffee, for a start, and in the immortal words of Mr. Berry, “no particular place to go.”

We found a beach, and combed it happily for a couple of hours. This is the place where our photography really came into its own, as mesmerized, we began taking pictures of the same things multiple times. We have more pictures of the same piece of driftwood on the beach from different angles than you can imagine. We have numerous pictures of a particular assembly of rocks, and dozens of shots of seaweed and trees and various beach creatures, both dead and alive. Eagles are ridiculously commonplace here, and I believe we have a picture of each one of them. It’s kind of a psychedelic experience, where every little thing seems imbued with special significance that you absolutely must capture with your camera.

Such is Haida Gwaii. It just sits there and commands your attention.

It was in Queen Charlotte City (Charlotte, to the locals) that we first felt rain. Back in the Tiguan, our rain-sensing wipers noticed it too, dutifully starting to work. But not for long, as shortly the clouds cleared, the sun shone, and the temperature rose. Our hosts at the Queen B (opens at 7:30 AM) opined that this weather was not normal. Another resident suggested than when the sun comes out in Haida Gwaii, everyone drops what they’re doing and heads for the nearest rock, on which they lay like lizards, absorbing the rays.

Masset Wharf
Masset Wharf. Click image to enlarge

Apparently the hat and the raingear wouldn’t be required. At least, not yet.

Haida Gwaii consists of two islands: Graham in the north and Moresby below it. There are four small towns on Graham Island—Queen Charlotte City, Skidegate, Port Clements and Masset. Sandspit is on Moresby, which is where you’ll find the airport. Staying on Graham Island, we headed north from Charlotte to Masset, where we stayed at the Copper Beech Guest House, an establishment operated by author/teacher/poet Susan Musgrave.

Now I don’t know about you, but if you’re going to stay at a B&B in Haida Gwaii, and you find one that’s operated by Susan Musgrave, well, it’s a no-brainer, yes? If you don’t know of Ms. Musgrave, she’s a fascinating, award-winning, and very nice person who has published many books. She also has something of a weakness for criminals.

I know, that last piece might throw you, but there you have it. For a partial explanation, Google “The StopWatch Gang”, introduce yourself to gang member Stephen Reid, and that would be Ms. Musgrave’s husband. Books have already been written about this, and documentaries made, so I’m not telling you anything new. Ms. Musgrave is comfortable with her choices, time passes, and the story becomes part of Canadian lore. We bought some books, which Ms. Musgrave kindly and thoughtfully inscribed. We liked her a lot.

Masset Wharf
Masset Wharf
The Over The Moon coffee shop (top), and a Haida Gwaii beach scene. Click image to enlarge

Out of Masset you’re on gravel and mud roads. You’ll quickly enter Naikoon Park and if you’re lucky, you won’t miss the Over the Moon coffee shop, hidden within the dense, wet forest (really, it’s just about camouflaged). It’s the only place around that sells milk, fruit, and coffee, plus they bake. Everybody visits. Its front door decorated with a charming piece of skull art, this is absolutely not Starbucks. My advice? Their blueberry squares are ambrosia, each easily feeding two. We bought enough for four.

Check a map and you’ll see we were at the northeastern tip of Graham Island. There we stopped at Agate Beach, so named because agate, a semi-precious stone, is found there in quantity. We picked up bags of what we thought was agate but which we later learned were just colourful pebbles. Some were quite large… colourful rocks, actually. I could show them to you as they’re now decorating my bathroom.

As are some nice pieces of driftwood that in this place qualify as nature’s found art. On the beach it’s an ad hoc still life in every direction (we have many pictures…). We left the logs, of course, but did consider loading the Tiguan with an excellent piece that would have made a fine bench. It would have fit, no problem, or we could have strapped it to the standard roof rack, but Air Canada may have had something to say about its weight.

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