For our June vacation this year, we decided that we wanted to go on an adventure. Part of our unschooling life is to try and expose the littles to as many different places/ideas/experiences as we can, and so we chose somewhere none of us had ever been. It worked out that we wanted to go to the ocean, and that our good friends Fleming and Vanessa (or Peming and Nessa, as Mattea calls them) are living in Prince Rupert, so Haida Gwai (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) was a natural destination.
We started making plans for our trip in January, and as we were researching travelling options, we discovered that kids travel free on VIARail in the summertime. We decided to take the train, and rent a vehicle once we got to Rupert. Buying train and ferry tickets, making reservations, and planning ahead made it all seem like a “real” vacation, almost as if we were travelling internationally.
So, here are some of the images from our adventure.
June 9th – We got up early and drove to Jasper, where our train journey would begin. The kids helped load our luggage to the train platform. We did the whole trip with only 8 small pieces of luggage, including our cooler of food for the two day train ride. It was great to have minimal clothing along, and helped us really evaluate how many clothes we really need in our day to day lives.
One of the original train stations along the route to Prince George. We were on the train for 8 1/2 hours the first day, saw 5 black bears and some beautiful mountain scenery, as well as many of these quaint little towns along the way. As we travelled further and further west, the earth became more and more green and my soul breathed the beauty.
We stopped in Prince George for the night and stayed at the Ramada. The kids were so glad to be off the train, after 8 1/2 hours of being confined to one car and being relatively quiet. We walked through the warm evening air to the hotel, stopping to enjoy this funny bear along the way. I ran, we swam, ordered pizza, and fell into bed exhausted at 11:30, with alarms set early for the next morning.
June 10th – Day two on the train. We headed for the train at 7:00 in the morning, with a stop at the hotel’s Starbucks for a caramel machiatto on the way. We were delighted by the announcement that there would be two school groups on the train with us during the day, as a grumpy old man had verbally assaulted me the day before on how unruly he thought our kids were being. I was even more thrilled when the grade one teacher travelling with her class encouraged all of her student to “wahoo…” their way through the tunnels as we travelled. Wonderful irony.
Elijah spent most of the train time playing his DS. India and Mattea played, drank lots of water from little paper train cups, and looked out the window. India took alot of pictures. We blew bubbles. We read books and played with toys. We drew. We were really really tired by the time we got off the train in Prince Rupert after 13 hours. It was wonderful to see our friends, and to be warmly welcomed into their one bedroom basement suite. They gave up their bed, their room, and their peace for four days for us….and the trip wouldn’t have been the same without them.
June 11-13th – Prince Rupert
Fleming and Vanessa took us down to the ocean to explore. A steep descent through rainforest wonder, where ferns were as tall as the littles and salmonberries flourished.
As the forest thinned, we came to the docks, and for an ocean lover like myself, there is no prettier scene than fishing boats moored and ready to go. The fishing industry in Prince Rupert has really suffered in past years, and the city has shrunk from 30,000 to about 14,000 in recent history. The harbour is the deepest and calmest harbour in the western North America, and is the shortest route to Hong Kong, so there is still an active shipping component to Rupert’s economy, but the lack of commercial fishing in the area has really affected the community in profound ways.
Fleming let Elijah try out his fishing rod, and after just three casts, he caught a small rock fish. He was thrilled by the experience, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with the fish once it had been reeled in. Fleming later gifted Elijah with a fishing rod…and a new passion is born.
Mattea, India, Vanessa and I hung out on the rocks while the boys were fishing.
5:30 in the morning, after a night on the ferry, we landed at Skidegate on Haida Gwai…with a tired mom who couldn’t help envisioning Titanic scenes as we sailed through the night and didn’t sleep well as a result. Overall though, the ferry ride was painless, and hot coffee was available for the tired travellers streaming from their berths into the morning rain.
Bald Eagle perched on top of a totem pole in Skidegate (one of the two villages on the Island where the population is largely aboriginal). Bald Eagles are everywhere on the islands, it is not uncommon to see them as frequently as one would see magpies or chickadees on the prairies.
We spent the first part of the day visiting Balance Rock. The tide was out so the littles had their first experience looking for life in tidepools. Unfortunately for all of us, Elijah’s terror of spiders was extended to the millions of tiny crabs living in the tidepools and really inhibited his enjoyment of beachcombing for the duration of the trip.
We also drove up island to the beach at Tlell before getting on the smaller ferry which would take us across to South Moresby Island where Sandspit is located (where we would be staying for the duration of our trip). This picture strikes me with the immediacy of children. India, in the middle of a 500m walk from the car to the beach, saw sand. She decided to play in the sand. No matter where we were going, where we had come from, this sand was there, in that moment, and it WAS to be PLAYED in. Drop to her butt, grab a stick, and start drawing. Here and now, in this moment. Always, she lives.