After quitting their job, Jordan Ross set out on their longest bikepacking trip to date, a multi-week trip to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia’s largest and most remote archipelago. Watch their 20-minute video and read more about the trip here…
For most of us living in British Columbia, Haida Gwaii is a mysterious once-in-a-lifetime destination. Maybe it’s the 20+ hours of ferries required to get there, or the fact that its sandy beaches and lush rainforests just seem impossibly remote, but there’s undoubtedly a certain allure to the archipelago sitting off the northern Pacific coast. Earlier this year, Jordan Ross quit his job in the city and rode his bike up Vancouver Island to make the ferry connection to Prince Rupert and then on to Haida Gwaii. Watch a video from their trip below, followed by a brief report and a look at the route he followed.
Words and photos by Jordan Ross (@jordanvegbike)
Haida Gwaii is the name for the series of islands off the northern coast of British Columbia, 100+ kilometers from the nearest larger town of Prince Rupert. The Haida Nation and its people have lived on these lands for more than 7,000 years and have endured unspeakable atrocities at the hands of white colonial power. Despite this, they remain resilient, with forms of resistance and strength in various aspects and temporalities. It is as a white settler, a beneficiary of colonialism, that I graciously visited their lands.
The trip involved a ferry from Horseshoe Bay, cycling up the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island (camping two nights along the way), a privately operated bus from Campbell River to Port Hardy, another night of camping, then a 15-hour BC Ferries voyage from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert through BC’s Inside Passage.
The ferry itself is an experience. Imagine what BC Ferries’ version of a cruise ship might look like, and you’re probably not too far off. The Northern Expedition features multiple indoor and outdoor decks with large carpeted staircases and sections inside the ship for private berths (for an additional fee, of course). Many of the younger folks I saw making the 15-hour journey brought small mattresses or sleeping pads and found themselves a spot on the floor between unused rows of seating.
The dining room didn’t seem remarkably different from the cafeteria-style operations on other BC Ferries ships I had been on, so they surprisingly had little in the way of vegan options. As a vegan of almost seven years and a frequent traveler on BC Ferries, I’d already prepared for this inevitability with panniers full of groceries of various types and my new pod-style stove ready to be put into use on the upper decks.
I decided to enjoy the fresh air and found a nice spot for my camping hammock on one of the stern’s outer decks. Apparently, in the summer (and especially before COVID) the outer decks would have almost a party atmosphere, with multiple tents of backpackers and other travelers cooking, drinking, and socializing. “Total party vibe,” remarked one of the BC Ferries crew. This time, however, I was the only one taking advantage of the free outside berth option.
Oh, and one more note about the ferry: there is a shower non-berthing travelers can use for $5. Shampoo, body wash, and a clean towel are included, and the water is hot.
After 15 hours, The Northern Expedition arrived at Prince Rupert a bit after midnight. I booked a private room at a hostel in town to avoid the discomfort of finding a decent camping spot in the middle of the night in a town I had never been to. The Pioneer Inn turned out to be the right call. The next evening was the final ferry, an eight-hour overnight journey west across 180 kilometers of the Pacific Ocean and, finally, to Haida Gwaii.
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