GOOD TIMES JOURNAL // PHOTO SERIES 021 // THE SEEHAGELS
Mike is a photographer and motion designer, and Ginni a visual artist and writer, together they make up the Seehagels and are currently based in Vancouver, BC. They love travelling, rain, fog, and lots of it.
We were recently invited by Visit Prince Rupert and Destination British Columbia to spend some time exploring the “great green” North. We'd just made the move West to BC from Alberta (land of the Rockies and prairies) earlier this year so were eager to check out some new-to-us areas in the province.
Neither of us had been to Prince Rupert- or "Rupert" as the locals call it- before, but have heard about and been intrigued by the area for years prior. The frame of reference for us was the Skeena River; a salmon-inhabited tidal river that runs through North Western BC and disperses where Prince Rupert meets the Pacific. Seven years ago Mike was working as an editor on a conservation documentary called Awakening the Skeena, whose efforts were focused on protecting the area from development by the energy industry. This experience and exposure made an impact on both of us and was ultimately career influencing for Mike. Having the chance to visit the Skeena together in due time was special.
The trip started off with landing on the rain-slicked runways of Terrace BC, which is about a fifteen-hour drive or hour and a half flight from Vancouver. In terms of travel time, it’s quite a ways up there. But after exploring the area, it seems you wouldn’t know it. Both Terrace and Prince Rupert share the same biogeoclimatic classification as Vancouver- all highly populated with ancient cedars and temperate hemlock rainforests that guard the Pacific coastline, but much more remote than the lower mainland; the perfect mix for outdoor exploration.
We expected it to be drier, vegetation to be less lush, and much colder. We were mistaken. In terms of climate and landscape, it felt a lot like the Southern coast, mild at this time of year with subtle differences in its' scenery. It is a coastal region after all, which we love!
Our first day began with a quick tour around the Terrace township, a pitstop at the tackle shop to get our fishing tags and away we went getting introduced to the many winding secondary roads and pristine waters of the region. The area is well known for its' salmon and steelhead fishing and we were lucky enough to experience it first hand.
We’d been in the area for less than three hours and were already waist deep in the waters of the Gitnadoiks- one of the many smaller tributaries to the Skeena River. We travelled by jet boat with a seasoned operator who knew the waters well. Apparently getting to and fishing the Gitnadoiks is a rare and valuable occasion even for the district’s locals. Fishing underneath a net of low-hanging clouds and surrounded by an ambient mist, we sensed this and felt lucky to have the chance to do so.
Heavy morning fog was the norm each day, and we had zero complaints. We wedged through the thick of it on another Skeena feeding river, the Exchamsiks. If there was an official model of “wild” in the flesh, this might have been it. Barely skirting by sandbars and driftwood, what we saw appeared with short notice.
The area was riddled with braided falls offshore and mama black bears feeding with their cubs. We anchored and took a slimy creek hop up to Rooster Tail falls where we tested the integrity of our waders and rain gear once again. There’s something existentially powerful about being at the base of a waterfall- it doesn’t get much better (wetter!), than that.
A lot of our time was spent on the water, mostly by jet boat and some by paddle. In an area where waterways seemed more prevalent than highways, it made sense that many of the best spots were better accessible by boat. Riding and reading a tidal river is completely unique in the sense that it not only flows directionally but fills and drains vertically too, on time with the tides. This is something we couldn’t quite get over as we cruised from the salty inlet at Port Edward to the mouth of the Skeena.
We kept analyzing our surroundings at that point- were we on the ocean or river? The answer was both, and the evidence was substantial. The area is known for it’s high fluctuating tides. A four hour round trip on the Skeena yielded an almost unrecognizable return trip, as exposed boardwalks and old ruins were then nearly submerged.
At the butt of our river ride we pulled ashore a bed of eelgrass and slogged our way to the banks where there was a supposed cemetery built by early inhabitants. The path to the cemetery was not well established and slightly resembled a scene in Jurassic Park, it almost seemed staged. There were headstones and rusty gates littered under piles of moss and fallen trees. Stone, marble and rotten cedar plaques dated back to the 1800’s. These banks were entirely saturated in history.
After spending a decent chunk of time at sea, we said goodbye to the family of humpbacks and gaggle of California sea lions we'd met and hit up some forested trails. Many locals recommended the Tall Trees trail as the one of the best for viewpoints and as an additional bonus had just reopened its’ gates after a few years of closure and improvements- it was ready for a test run. As it was (only) 6pm we figured we'd have enough time to get up the trail and back down again before it became too dark to see. The path was just a 4-kilometer trip in total; said Google. Except that it wasn't.
We realized something wasn't right as soon as we hit the 4k mark on the way up, and we were nowhere near the top yet. We were wildly misinformed, which resulted in a three-hour mud-flinging frenzy on the way down in pitch black in the heart of bear and wolf territory.
The best part was we forgot our headlamps and bear spray, and got to grace the forest with our terribly hoarse and tired shouting voices. Hilarity and hostility ensued as we slipped and tripped along to a 19% battery on our cellphone flashlight. I must have thought any wildlife in the area were thugs, as Mike reminded me that all I apparently thought to yell out into the wilderness was "Yo! Yo-yo!" for the last 45 minutes down. Needless to say after making it back to safety we spent the remainder of the evening in voluntary silence in the accompaniment of nachos and beer. Good times! Until next time Prince Rupert- we'll most definitely be back.