AHH!! The adjustments happening right now in my life are major! From the summer off work to full days of school, small town to a city, no commute to an hour each way…no traffic to traffic. Add on top the fact that I actually care this time around (LOL) and I’m swamped! I was texting today with my friend Ali, we did our pharmacy degrees together years ago, and I told her this:
“Ali. The tables have turned. I AM NOW KEEN.”
Thank God for this! The RMT program used to be three years but now it’s jammed into two! Me and my classmates’ lives are kind of over. I better be keen! But, HOW is a person supposed to fit in regular exercise, let alone legit training, amongst meal prep (no income, no buying lunches!), commuting, over six hours of classes a day, more commuting, studying (even already, yes), chores and trying not to forget about EATING, SLEEPING and communication with family and friends? People with kids are like stfu hahaha
HAHAHA poor me! Just kidding, don’t worry, I know I’m not the first person in history to have a very full schedule and feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day. I’m just writing about what’s going on with me and the little obsession of mine called running. I like writing about stuff that might be relatable to you reading this in one way or another.
After week one, I’ve made a few conclusions:
I can and will still run often. I can carve out time.
Maybe not QUITE as much as before
If I don’t meal prep and be organized, I’m doomed
For the foreseeable future, I can’t effectively prioritize training like I did before
Just had to read number four again and ask myself if it has to be true, but it does. Unless I wanna not sleep, run myself into the ground or fail school, training has to take a back seat. OKAY THE MIDDLE ROW OF SEATS LIKE IN A MINIVAN.
I did a couple of evening runs, which isn’t my style but I’ll take what I can get, and then I did two experiments that confirmed everything is going to be cool..😅
Morning running in my hood would mean hitting the road when traffic is annoying. But, if I’m up at five and leave the house by six, I can:
have an hour to run in Vernon, shower and be seated in class on time (8:30)
get to the Sails in Kelowna for November Project on Wednesdays, then make it to school with time to spare
be home in West Kelowna around 5pm with time to eat, study, do tasks of life, get ready for the next day and be in bed by 9:30
I will also have lots of time to swim in Vernon in the mornings once the pool opens again. Fewf 😂
This post is so dramatic. I don’t care! Running and training are my true passions and how I stay physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. I refuse to become any kind of unhealthy while becoming a registered massage therapist. I refuse to give up my passion. My husband, home, family, best friends, training buddies and cat all got left behind for this career change endeavor and the one thing I didn’t have to say so-long to was running. I’ve never had to care about time management this much before, but it can be done and I’ll do it! 🙂
The Okanagan Marathon is in four weeks and I will be ready for it! It’s not a goal race, but I’ll be ready for the distance and who knows, maybe I’ll even be prepared to give it my best shot.
Are you going through any challenging adjustments right now?
I feel like I fell off the face of the Internet. LOL. Seriously. Didn’t even post on Instagram for eight days! hahahaha
The move to the Okanagan was hectic. It went a bit like this: Prince Rupert, flat tire, Kelowna, Vancouver, wedding, Kelowna, flat tire, Kamloops, Kelowna, Kamloops, new set of tires, Vernon, Penticton, wedding, Kelowna, Vernon….HOLY F*CK. It was pretty overwhelming and I felt a bit homesick almost right away for Northern BC.
Moving involves so much change and it can also be really intimidating. Social circles, training buddies and comfort zones get left behind. Then add on the task of maintaining a fitness routine…yikes. That part is like trying to stick with exercise habits while on holidays..except not just for a week or two.
I knew that if I waited to get on top of this necessary re-creation of my fitness routine I would feel shitty, sad and it would be hard to get going again. Choosing to see a new place and situation as an adventure, and as an opportunity to explore new things (sometimes scary) is the key to success, in my opinion.
Tip #1: just fucking go.
A couple days after ALL THE DRIVING was done, the first thing I did was go on a short run from my new spot at my MIL’s house. I’ve heard people say “I don’t know my way around.” or “I’ll get lost.” as an excuse for not running in a new place. Good try. It’s called an out-and-back, plus I know we all have Google maps! I ran for 3k in one direction, found a sick hill and ran up and down it, and then back the way I came. There. First run done and no longer feeling shitty about a few days in the vehicle sitting on my ass. The next day I planned a far longer route, also using maps.
Tip #2: do some simple research
Google around for some mainstream running/walking/cycling spots to start out with. Even look at a few hashtags or other stuff on social media! Seriously. I clicked #runkelowna, looked at segments on Strava, searched for paths and trails and looked up local races to see what areas they are in. Also, familiarize with the general area with Google maps or even a real map ahaha. Sounds touristy but who likes feeling like they don’t know which way is up? Not me.
Tip #3: find a crew
Go to a meet-up or an event of some kind and meet a couple people! Even in very small towns you can usually find something sooner or later like a small race, fundraiser or fun run. Lots of running stores have group runs, and I always come across different activity squads on Instagram. You don’t have to show up and start yelling “HI EVERYONE I’M JAMIE I JUST MOVED HERE WHO WANTS TO BE MY FRIEND??” nor is a full commitment necessary. Unless it’s awesome you don’t have to stay or return! Just put yourself out there. People are generally nice.
When I go to any city I check if they have a November Project tribe. If you don’t know what this is, you need to know. So far I have gone to NP in Montreal, Seattle, Vancouver and now Kelowna. Always a good time and always good people!!!!! I’m 2/2 for Wednesday mornings since I got here and plan to see how long I can streak. Some of us went for coffee after today’s workout. People are nice! #JustShowUp
Tip #3: join a training clinic
I met some amazing people when I trained for my very first half marathon in 2013 with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, many who I’m still connected with today in one way or another. Yep, the first time you show up it can be scary, just like the first day of a course or a new job, but that’s normal!!!
Most communities have beginners’ programs too, like Couch to 5k, etc. I just signed up for a trail running clinic with P.A.C.E. that was recommended by one of my Instagram friends (Instagram friends are real) as well as a friend-of-a-relative who I just met last weekend. It starts September 19th and I’m stoked for new connections, learning the trails around my new area, variety and accountability!
Tip #4: find a buddy
Even if you don’t know a single person in an unfamiliar place, someone else you know might! Ask someone at home to hook you up with one of their contacts in the new location, even for one run or just to be in contact for recommendations. Six degrees of separation, people!
There are a few people in my new area who I can meet up with and I plan to, but I really lucked out this first week – two of my favourite run buddies were in town from Victoria. They showed me part of the Okanagan Rail Trail that’s being developed from Kelowna to all the way up by Coldstream!
I have no problem exploring new places solo (thanks to Suzanne) but if you feel you need a buddy, I know you can find one! I’ll have lots once school starts, I’m sure!
Tip #5: take advantage of new amenities
Gyms. Yoga studios. Aquatic Centres. I know many people don’t like going to new places alone, and I admit it’s not my most favourite thing, but once arriving at these places we get busy! I like to remind myself that people go to these kinda places primarily to be active and feel good, and any socializing is usually secondary.
There are so many places that offer amazing discounts or promos to new visitors. Last night I went to a complimentary hot yoga class with my mother-in-law, I was her guest since I’d never been there before. Even if your first visit somewhere isn’t complimentary, just drop in, it’s not like you have to become a member to try out a new class, pool, workout space, etc. I dropped into a sweet pool yesterday because the one I want to go to on my way to school is closed for maintenance.
I think moving requires lots of trial and error. Learning the area and how to get places. Testing out spots to hang out, run, workout, practice. Interacting with new people who start out as strangers, may become part of your life, but might just be acquaintances or even remain strangers! New colleagues, classmates, instructors, coaches, roommates, you name it. The unknown is uncomfortable but fun, and I plan to have as much fun as I can with this! If you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, I hope you take a similar perspective.
Coming up on ONE THOUSAND days sober, I wanted to check in with my relationship with booze. Where are we at today?
It’s so crazy you guys. I fantasized about a time like now, way back when. So many of the times when I said “I’m never drinking again” I’d also imagine a future life that seemed unattainable. The life I was envisioning was one where I wasn’t letting alcohol make me feel, look and act shitty on the regular. There was none of the anxiety, depression, regret or guilt that stemmed from binge drinking and the behaviours that go hand-in-hand, during or after. I saw a vibrant, peaceful, fresh life where alcohol didn’t have a place. Out loud, I would test out what it felt like to say “I don’t drink“, but then I’d feel sad because I didn’t think it was possible to get to that place. But it is a place. It’s a thing. It’s awesome.
I don’t drink.
Guess what else? I don’t think about it much. That’s where me and Booze’s relationship is at. Like an ex who I’m truly over, or an old friend from the past who I’ve lost complete touch with. Or remember that cartoon Denver the Last Dinosaur? I think about drinking about as much as I think about Denver. That was random.
Never before has the name of the website tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com made so much sense. Even thinking about drinking was exhausting, and I can see that now that drinking isn’t a part of my life. Alcohol is not on my radar.
It took so much commitment, learning and change to get to this place, but it has happened. Just like a break-up with a human being, after I “dumped” booze, I had to make a ton of adjustments and reassess my time, what I did, who I spent time with, where I hung out, etc. Even after a year there were things I was still dealing with and working on. It wasn’t easy but now I find myself 965 days sober and the happiest I’ve ever been.
If you ever have the fantasy I used to have, about being able to say “I don’t drink” out loud and for it to be true, it can be and you can do it. Trust me. If I can, anyone can. I wish I had someone telling me that when I needed it, so I’m telling you in case you need to hear it!
How’s it going? Since Jack and Jill I have been taking it a day at a time – doing whatever I want! Some swimming, short easy-effort runs, quite a bit of trail and elevation and yesterday a solid 10k with a slightly faster finish. Oh and a couple full rest days ahaha. Lifelong Endurance and I are still in close contact but we’ll officially pick back up with training in September.
This weekend some friends and I head to the Hah Nic Na’ Aah mountain half marathon in the Babine Mountain Range! This is basically my first non-road race aside from the Mount Hays Quickclimb and I’m stoked! The terrain and views look stunning, and since I’m not actually racing it, there will be time for lots of photos!
Next weekend husband and I take off on a wedding tour/moving me to the Okanagan. Exciting times! School starts September 4th, but first I’ll zip back up north for our annual Labour Day Weekend celebrations in the beautiful Bulkley Valley. Same hood as the race this weekend, as well as the Tyhee Tri. Lucky me!
Coach Andrew and I had a chat about training and have a loose plan. We will most likely attack the half marathon distance over the fall season (after the Okanagan Marathon) and into the winter. I hope to pick out a goal half to race in early 2019! Into the new year we will start to build on that fitness for a goal Spring marathon to continue chasing down the unicorn! 🤞 I look forward to running as many local 5 and 10k’s along the way.
Some of the marathons I’m considering (at this point) include the Eugene Marathon, Blooms to Brews, the Windermere Marathon and BMO Vancouver, though I’m pretty reluctant about Vancouver, it’s just nice and close. I’d prefer to be able to drive to said marathon, and I won’t run anywhere with more than an hour time difference. April is my preferred month, but I’m not against March or May! If you have any suggestions that I should add to the list of options, please let me know!
I hope you are having a really good summer!!! Recently I opened the sober app on my phone and it’s passed 950 days!!! I’ll be at 1000 days by the end of September, holy shit. The blog has obviously been very focused on running over the last few months but I hope to do some writing about sober stuff in the next little bit here.
Hope August has been fun and talk to you after the mountain half!!!
I need to start by praising the organizers for the fantastic pre-race communication. Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon info emails started rolling in ten days before the race and I’d received five, including this exceeds-expectations weather update, by the Friday before!
On Friday I drove to Terrace to fly to Vancouver, then on Saturday morning I picked up my rental car and hit the road to North Bend!! Including picking up the car and the wait at the border, it took four hours. Easy.
Package pick up was at the Nike factory store. It was easy to get to and a quick process! The actual bag we got is sweet and was perfect for a gear check bag. It zippers closed with another smaller zipper pocket and a Jack & Jill logo. Runners also received a race buff, which I think is the greatest thing ever! The race shirt is a unisex-style tank (see later in a finish photo) and it’s NICE! There were pace tattoos (which proved to be extremely valuable) and I grabbed one from the 3:35 pile. I was given a small ziplock bag for my tunnel flashlight and my bib number was written on it for me. Other than that, there wasn’t a bunch of random stuff to recycle like at big expos, just a little race pamphlet with info and maps. One thing I forgot was to get a B12 shot, which were apparently available for free! Dang. There was race clothing for sale outside of the store too, but a buff and tank is more than enough for me.
I was in and out and then headed to my AirBnB! It was just a few minutes away from the factory stores, and also just a three minute drive from Tollgate Park parking lot, which is where runners park before getting on the shuttles to the start line. Joan’s place, was perfect for race weekend accommodation and you should stay here! She was great!
I was avoiding “stuff” – I seem to become more of a minimalist with each marathon. I decided against headphones, which also meant I didn’t need to carry my phone. I opted for no sunglasses (good choice, not needed 👌) and I committed to walking through aid stations to take full advantage, therefore eliminating my worry about whether or not I should bring a handheld water bottle. My Nakd bars and Endurance Tap gels fit in the SpiBelt and I was good to go.
I wore my Altra Escalantes for this race, which are a pretty minimal shoe. I’m telling you this because the organizers advise to wear something more substantial, but I didn’t have a second thought about my favourite shoes while running the marathon! No issues at all.
Since I had a pretty late lunch, for “dinner” I had bananas, Nuun, a sea salt bagel and a chocolate protein shake. Then it was bedtime! Time for some fake sleeping!
My alarm woke me up at 3:30, I ate my oatmeal and raisins, drank a bunch of Nuun and geared up. A long-sleeved throwaway shirt was totally sufficient but I’m glad I brought it – it wasn’t that warm yet pre-race! My shuttle time was 5:05 (assigned on the bib) and I left the house around 4:40 for the very short drive to Tollgate Park. The parking situation seemed totally under control. It was dark but there were tons of volunteers with flashlights directing us and I was parked and getting on my bus within five minutes.
Our driver wasn’t sure where to go once it was almost time to exit the freeway towards the starting area… I still don’t actually know if he was joking or not but we all knew which exit and how to proceed thanks to pre-race emails!!
Twenty porto-potties (Honey Buckets 😂😂/😷😷) plus the actual park restroom facility made for lots of toilets, but more would have been better. Close to start time, the lineups were pretty long. That being said, there was lots of bush everywhere to squat in if it came down to it as we were in a park in the forest, after all.
I planned to use the Race Screen app (data screen) in miles so I could manually lap at some of the mile markers. The tunnel is known to screw with GPS so it was the perfect solution for that, plus not running the tangents ideally has messed me up in the past with overall pace, and this would help with that too! Except that my Garmin went haywire and changed back to kilometers without telling me! I tested it the night before and it was doing everything I wanted!
So, I was running with a screen that showed distance in kilometers, but pace (over the last 30 seconds) in minutes/mile, giving me split times in minutes/kilometer, but on all other data screens showing the distance in miles!!! Ya I’m confused even trying to explain that. The old me would have lost it, but I really couldn’t have cared less!
The race started after the American national anthem. We ran for less than a kilometer on an uneven and loose gravel stretch, and then right into the tunnel! It was dark, cool and echoey.
The ground inside was much better – solid with just a few puddles here and there, but runners called out to those behind them to watch out. Because the floor of the tunnel is kind of domed, it was only really suitable to run about three across. This was perfect because it wasn’t too squishy and there was room to pass if needed. The tunnel felt really short to me but in reality it was over 4km long! So cool! Near the end, it got light enough that I was able to put my flashlight into the ziplock I was carrying long before it was time to toss it into the light collection bucket. Perfect.
It was in the tunnel that I discovered my watch was being a freak. I decided to run by feel with those around me (we started around where the 3:35 pacer would have been..if there was one..) and then just see what happened once we were out of the tunnel. I had my pace tattoo if my watch fully betrayed me anyway!
Once out of the tunnel, the pacing on my Garmin seemed a bit erratic, but the kilometer split times made sense. I trusted it, but I also consulted the tattoo at every mile marker, comparing it to the “time elapsed” screen on my watch. This is the first time I’ve ever used a pace band and it was awesome! I am sold.
The rest of the course is a very mild downhill on an old gravel road which is the John Wayne Trail and the last part, the Snoqualmie Trail. The surface wasn’t bad at all but it’s worth noting that there were some parts that were fairly loose and rocky. I spent a lot of time with my eyes down, watching where my feet would be landing. But, when I wasn’t looking at the ground, the course was GORGEOUS!!!
I had forgotten to switch my wedding rings to my silicone Qalo ring, but instead of letting that bother or worry me, I used it as a way to monitor hydration even closer than I would have and it really worked out for me! When I’m dehydrated my fingers majorly swell. It’s so uncomfortable, especially when wearing a metal ring, so I stayed perpetually aware of my hands and stopped at every single aid station to drink at least one full cup of water, sometimes two. This race is definitely the smartest I’ve ever been with respect to fueling and hydration.
There was an aid station with at least two volunteers every two miles after we came out of the tunnel, just before or after the odd mile markers. I found this to be perfect. More are always better, but there was no time where I found myself thinking they were too far apart. This race was very well aided!
At half way, I was almost two minutes ahead of the pace band. I had been monitoring my stomach and it was a good time to stop at a washroom. There aren’t many toilets along the course because there is no way to get them on to the trail. Like I said before though, in an emergent situation you could probably hide and squat anywhere along the entire course. I was quick and kept going, happy and thankful my gut wasn’t cramping up like it often does post-pit-stop.
After 16 miles, I now had to work harder to focus and stay in it. I’d already been stopping at every aid station to hydrate, but in the last third of the race I definitely had to divide and conquer my way to each station and stopping for water was also a rest. I had packed a tiny vial of peppermint oil inside my top and when I remembered it was there I was pumped. I rubbed it all over my arms and collar bones and the cool tingling seemed to keep my mind and body connected.
My main mantra for this race was “Fluid, Focused, Fearless” but I also tapped into many of the other things that I pre-planned to focus on when it got more difficult. I thought of:
my friends at Ironman Canada in Whistler that same day
my friend Anthony who I met at the CIM expo, my friends Laura, Jeph, Steph, Karmen & Adam, and my Rupert Runners crew
Coach Andrew reminding me that racing is like boxing – we don’t give up from a couple “hits”. During multiple hard parts I thought, “that was just a little slap” or “one shot to the head can’t take me down“, etc.
the strong 10k I ran at the Tyhee Triathlon, when I was very tired, hot and my legs felt like wood
my favourite pro, Jordan Hasay
the author of Beyond Grit, Cindra Kamphoff
the Haida shield that I won the previous weekend, which was in my pocket!
Why am I telling you all these things? Because it matters. A marathon is a long fuckin race and we need to be armed with perspective shifters, motivators and contingency plans!
The last ~8k of the race were very hard for me, but marathons are hard. Duh. At this point I knew I was too off pace to finish under 3:35, but I was well within breaking 3:40! Ladies and gentleman, the purpose of subsequent goals! I walked for a few seconds multiple times and pep talked myself to keep moving forward! A women who I saw many times (we kept passing each other whenever the other was regrouping) encouraged me and I’m so grateful for that! There was also a spectator who shouted at me in the final stretch “ALRIGHT OISELLE, SWING THOSE ARMS AND FINISH IT!” and I listened!!! Hell yeah, the power of the Volée team gear! Thank you, random man!
My last mile was strong! Got back to goal pace and finished it off. Crossing the finish line, like in any marathon, was pure joy!
Cold wet towels were handed out right after medals were hung around our necks and those were heavenly! It was so sunny and beautiful out (and VERY hot by now) and it was such a fun vibe at the finish area!
There were mini computers to sign up for next year’s race, screens to check chip times, race apparel for sale, snacks, hydration, photo opp spots, plus the super easy gear check retrieval. The volunteers who got my flashlight and gear bag for me were kids and they were so sweet!
The finish line is a bit further than where we parked at Tollgate Park. There was a shuttle back to the parking lot and it was easy, short and fun.
I loved this event and I honestly couldn’t even think of any feedback to send when they requested it by email. Bus driver school? The organizers are obviously doing a great job, this race runs on both Saturday AND Sunday because of the popularity!
Although I missed the BQ by two and a half minutes, I am not disappointed in any way. I couldn’t have asked for more on this day! The weather was great and the temperature manageable, I ran what I’d consider my second strongest marathon (after CIM), I had fun and didn’t hit the wall or go to the dark place! Also, I discovered some new things about myself as a marathoner! I can:
efficiently utilize aid stations instead of carrying an annoying handheld
handle unexpected things like a cray Garmin
effectively use a pace band
coach myself into pushing for the B goal when the A goal has slipped away
PUMP up the JAMmie is not over. This training cycle was fantastic! Coach Andrew has helped me take over AN HOUR off of my first marathon time from May 2016, which was 4:40:50! I’ve been asked if I’ll try again to BQ before the 2019 Boston registration opens in September, but the answer is no. It’s time for a break, and then to continue my journey with Lifelong Endurance! Boston 2020 will be mine!
Conveniently, my qualifying time for Boston 2020 changes to sub 3:40. I will be thirty-five come Patriot’s Day 2020! I’m still going to chase a sub-3:35 though. Keep ya posted!
When we got married we talked about a few different honeymoon ideas but ultimately decided on Haida Gwaii! Easy to get to from where we live, prime outside adventuring and gorgeous landscape – the main things we were looking for. My husband and I are very different, but we do share a serious love for nature, camping and exploring. The variety that Haida Gwaii offers is awesome. We had both been there in the past on family trips as kids, but it was time to go back together and do it our way! Almost two years after the wedding, we did! Here’s a recap of our trip. I hope it inspires you to get there or get BACK there, and that it might also help with some trip planning.
Once we picked the dates and made ferry reservations, we were working with the first evening plus eight more full days. I feel like this was enough time to do all the things we wanted, but I also could have stayed WAY longer, or forever. On the other hand, I believe that a shorter trip would be totally worth it depending on what you want to get up to! If researched and planned well, even a few days would be so great.
We camped for seven of the eight nights. I love camping and we are pretty efficient about it. That being said, setting up and taking down camp does take a little extra time, so we had to keep that in mind.
Our trip began with the daytime ferry (10am departure) from Prince Rupert to Skidegate on a Friday. The crossing, I hear, can be anywhere from six to eight hours, and we were unloading by 5pm.
During the planning process, one thing I had wondered was if it’s possible after unloading from the Northern Adventure to make the Kwuna (smaller ferry that crosses Skidegate inlet down to Moresby Island) in the same day. We ran into a friend on board and that’s exactly what he was doing. Really good to know that we could have gone down to Gray Bay the first night if we wanted to.
First up, Rennell Sound (2 nights – evening, full day, morning)
Rennell Sound! The only vehicle access point on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. We got off the ferry, drove through Queen Charlotte and made our way there, which is all logging roads. We passed on Rennell Sound Rec. Site at the bottom of the steep hill just as you get to the sound – it was packed and busy with massive boats everywhere and that wasn’t where we wanted to go anyway. We drove to Bonanza Beach (at least 10k further northwest, at the end of the line) which you can’t access with a vehicle. We didn’t actually know that part. After checking out the approximately 500m trail into the beach, we decided it was a bit long to pack in the camping gear. Damn!
We hadn’t actually planned to pack gear anywhere. Whoops. There is also a two-spot mini camp spot called Cone Head just before Bonanza Beach, right along the road and with beach access, but it was occupied. Along the logging road a few groups were camped in small pull-outs here and there, but it was dusty and not what we were looking for. I consulted our Haida Gwaii bible, Haida Gwaii – a Guide to BC’s Islands of the People by Dennis Horwood and noticed that the trail into Gregory Beach looked shorter. It was!! So we packed in some gear for two nights! I love that we started the trip not knowing exactly where we would first camp!
We were the king and queen of Gregory Beach! All to ourselves!!! As far as I could see, pure magical beauty! The first night the waves sounded so close I kept waking up and looking outside to confirm the ocean wasn’t about to come into the tent ahaha.
The following day we jogged/biked to Bonanza Beach to explore and have lunch. On the way we learned here is another camping spot tucked in off the road along Gregory Creek. So cool! Maybe we will go there next time.
Rennell Sound is absolutely amazing. Like, secret enchanted beaches at the edge of the world. If I come to Haida Gwaii for a similar length of time, or longer, I will absolutely go back.
For a shorter trip, however, it’s slightly out of the way, and more of a hassle than just arriving to a campground. The drive was a little long for just a day trip. Even though this ended up being my favourite spot that we went, I think I’d save it for week or longer visits.
Gray Bay! (2 nights – half day, full day, morning)
On Sunday morning it started to rain (for like an hour..lucky!), which lit a fire under our asses and we packed up quickly and hit the road back to Skidegate Landing. We got on the Kwuna over to Moresby Island (20 minutes, under $40 for two people in a truck) and had breakfast at the Sandspit Inn. Then we made the drive south to Gray Bay.
The Gray Bay Rec Site has nineteen spots. We turned into the first section to find that there were people in #1 and #2 who were packing up. Turns out this crew is good friends with our good friends!!! Small world. They suggested we wait and take the spot because it was the best. It really was. We were basically surrounded by water on three sides – the ocean, plus in the bend of Gray Bay Creek!
I had a long run to do so once we were set up I hit the beach. I ran the length of the bay twice, as well as the length of the short campsite road. Unbelievable. All sites have beach view and access. This campsite is the shit!!!!! Gray Bay is actually breathtaking.
Later we tried to find our own way to Secret Cove but missed the trail. We started too close to the mouth of the creek and only hiked in enough to find the first mini cove north of Gray Bay. Still awesome!!
The next day we went the real way to Secret Cove (turn-off about 200m before the Gray Bay Creek Bridge). We rode our bikes until it was no longer bikable, then hiked in. It’s a short trail and super cool spot!
Gray Bay is amazing. It’s easy to get to and the campsite is awesome and right at the greatest beach. On another shorter run, I checked out every single camp spot, since there was no one else there! Site #10/11 wins second place after #1! I’d prioritize this place even if I only came for a few days! The ferry to Moresby Island is so short and the drive to Gray Bay was quick. Do it.
Sandspit to hike the Dover Trail!
On our way back to the Kwuna to go back to Graham Island, we stopped in the Sandspit area for a hike. I heard about the Dover Trail on both the @gohaidagwaii Instagram page as well as their fantastic website! We also tried to go to the famous Dick’s Wok Inn for Chinese Food but it wasn’t open at that time. Damn!
It was an easy hike in a beautiful old growth forest trail. It follows a creek for a while and there are cool spots where you walk along old logs, and some semi-steep parts with rope for assistance.
At one point there’s a short side trail that takes you to the waterfall. It was the muggyest day EVER and arriving at that waterfall was heavenly. I really loved this hike and I’m glad we made time for it, but I wouldn’t feel compelled to go back unless I was on an extended visit to Haida Gwaii with lots of time on my hands.
Tow Hill & North Beach area (3 nights – evening, 2 full days, morning)
After crossing back to Graham Island, we hit the highway and stopped for coffee at Jag’s on the way. COFFEEEEEEEE!!
Around five we got to Agate Beach Campground. Tow Hill Road alone was so cool! The campsite is busy and windy, but it is the most stunning location with crazy views. We picked one of the few open spots and set up shop. The wind was really cold, I couldn’t believe it. I had all my layers on, everything I brought basically! It felt like we went from summer camping to Fall/Winter camping, so bring warm clothes.
Then I got my tempo run in on Tow Hill Road. It was the best. I had my husband with me on the bike! So gorgeous.
The next day our first adventure was exploring North Beach. We biked from the campsite past Tow Hill and across the Hiellen River Bridge and rode as far as we could before the sand wasn’t as good for bike riding. Probably about 10k. Then we walked another 5km to get to Rose Spit.
That was a very long and tiring adventure. North Beach is really cool and very long ahah. Next time I won’t feel the need to explore so far down – it’s great but not a lot changes until you get to the spit. I think I’d go for a max 5k out along the beach, either on a bike or a run. I would also take a vehicle down towards the spit but I wouldn’t do it again on bike/foot!
Later on after dinner, we went to Tow Hill! I am IN LOVE with it. The boardwalk to the blow-hole is flat and wheelchair accessible, which I think is really cool.
The boardwalks to the other viewing platforms are steep but not that long. The views were amazing! Unfortunately it wasn’t a rising tide when we were there so we didn’t see much spray going on at the blow-hole, but it was still the coolest spot. The beauty here is overwhelming.
I doubt I will ever come to Haida Gwaii again without visiting Tow Hill. It’s too cool, easy to get to and there are so many accommodation options in the area besides camping, if you plan far enough ahead that is.
The next morning I went back to Tow Hill by myself on a 10k run because I loved it so much! It was worth getting up before 6am for that. After breakfast we headed to the Cape Fife trailhead which is just over the Hiellen Bridge past the Tow Hill parking lot.
This trail is flat, easy and beautiful! It’s 10k across the spit, over to East Beach!
East Beach is the shit and, in my opinion, kicks North Beach’s ass. It looks like freaking Cancun! There is a hiking shelter at Cape Fife and it’s LEGIT. I am so happy we checked it out because now I know that next time it would totally be an option to stay overnight! It’s a longhouse style cabin with a wood stove and two sets of bunk beds that have a double on the lower level so six could sleep comfortably. It’s AWESOME.
Since I love hikes and trails but I am also a serious beach bum, next time I will hit this trail in the early morning and spend the whole day at Cape Fife, and either spend the night in the shelter or hike back in the evening.
Twenty kilometers of trail made for a long day (plus the 10k before hand) and we were pretty over it by the time we got back to the campsite. Also, the wind kept getting stronger and by this time we had nicknamed our campsite “Everest Base Camp” LOL. It was now the seventh night in the tent. We were reaching a turning point with respect to camping and being filthy dirty. HAHAHHAA.
In the morning we cleaned up and headed out. Breakfast at the Island Sunrise Cafe in Masset was really good and SO needed. From there we hit the road to head south again.
Port Clements, etc
Our first stop along the way after leaving Masset was to go swimming at Pure Lake! This lake is perfect! I wish I had it for triathlon training! Tip: don’t try to go swimming at Mayer Lake (unless you’re out on a boat) or Spirit Lake, we learned this the next day. Nice places, not good swimming spots! Pure Lake was so ideal for a quick swim for two dirty honeymooners but with all the cool places to explore, I wouldn’t come here for the day or anything like that.
We went to Port Clements to check it out and stopped at the little museum. It was interesting reading old newspaper clippings about the Golden Spruce. There was a lot of cool old logging equipment and in general it was just a neat little spot. I’m glad we made the stop, Port Clements is really beautiful. I might look into adventures around here for next time.
Tlell (one night – late afternoon until the next morning)
We continued south and had the most AMAZING lunch at the Crow’s Nest at Tlell!!! I picked up a calendar of the most literally breathtaking artwork – paintings of local landscapes by my newly decided favourite artist, Maryanne Wettlaufer. The magic of Haida Gwaii plus tourist syndrome got me so I also got a glass Crow’s Nest travel mug, but managed to escape friendship bracelets and dangly earrings. The Crow’s Nest is amazing in so many ways. Cafe, convenience store with local farm items too, gifts and jewelry, ICE CREAM. Such a cool little hub in the hamlet that is Tlell. You absolutely need to go here, and it’s on the way to everywhere both ways anyway!
From there we went to the Crystal Cabin. We booked the Sleeping Beauty Cabin for our last night, a miniature one-room cabin in the yard of the Crystal Cabin gallery. It was awesome! Tourist syndrome continued and I got this incredible Tow Hill hoodie from the gallery while we were checking in.
We went for a drive to explore and find more ice for the cooler. Up until now we hadn’t really driven around, just to wherever our next camping spot was. St. Mary’s Spring, which also happens to be the turnaround point in the Totem to Totem full marathon, was a spot I wanted to stop at. Since I believe in magic and legends, I needed to drink from the spring. My husband even gave in and drank some of the spring water and he’s the skeptic. LOL.
After our cruise we went to the Pesuta Shipwreck trail. I friggin loved this. It’s about 2k of an easy hike through a beautiful forest, then 3k on an old road along the river until it meets the ocean and East Beach. The shipwreck itself is fascinating, and the beach where it’s located is like paradise on a nice day.
I personally would prioritize this adventure. We did it in an evening and didn’t stay at the beach nearly long enough, and it was still so worth it. Next time I will take at least half a day so that I can spend a few hours on the beach between the hikes in and out. East Beach, like I said, is amazing!
Then it was bed time in the Sleeping Beauty Cabin! Okay the outhouse is so radical, test it out if you go to the Crystal Cabin gallery, which you should!
Skidegate & Queen Charlotte (Saturday)
Woohoo race day!! We got up around six and forty-five minutes later made the short drive from Tlell to the Haida Heritage Centre. Both of us were running the 10k in the Totem to Totem race, but there is also a half marathon and full marathon! Such an awesome event! I vow to come back for this race next year, not sure which distance!
Both of us agreed it was such a wicked race!! After we finished running, we went back to Jag’s Beanstalk for more coffee and breakfast snacks. A swim was in order so first we went to the Spirit Lake trails just a few minutes away, but discovered it’s not a good spot to swim. We had heard about Mayer Lake as well, and since we had all day and the race awards weren’t til around 2:30, we figured we’d go check it out. Also not a good swimming spot. We were just two happy, stinky honeymooners on the best trip of our lives, so we just kept driving and ended up back at Pure Lake, 80km from where we started HAHAHAHA. Worth it! Wish I had some pics from Pure Lake but there was some public nudity going on. Sorry.
After the glorious swim we cruised back down to Skidegate and got to check out Skidegate Days! We had shishkebabs and chow mein and then went to the Longhouse Gift Shop, which we’d run past in the race. This is a cool store and you should go!
Then the awards were presented for the race. It was sweet it was just on the balcony of someone’s house, right on the main street in the village where Skidegate Days was happening! Look what I friggin won!
I have a tendency to not fully enjoy the last day of any trip. I get sad that it’s ending, and a bit of travel anxiety, etc. Not today! It was so hot and beautiful out, there was lots going on and it was nice to be done camping and just touristing at this point. So beautiful and relaxing!
Prawn & Scallop Restaurant (formerly known as Oceanview Restaurant??) was where we ended up for dinner in Queen Charlotte. The Chinese food was really good! From there we walked around a bit by the ocean side square by the visitor’s centre and talked about how next time we definitely need to rent kayaks or SUPs from Green Coast or the like. That’s on my list for next time for sure, a full day or most of a day on a SUP in Queen Charlotte. Most of the shops were closed at the time we were there so next time I’d really like to check them out!
On the way back to the ferry at Skidegate Landing there is a new little smoothie shack called Green Eggs Market. The location is prime and it’s the cutest little juice and smoothie bar! You should go here. It’s on the way anyways, whether you’re coming or going 😀
That was the end of the trip 😦 We had a visit in the ferry lineup with some of the ladies who also ran in the Totem to Totem, and then it was time to board for the 10pm sailing. In our state-room we watched a couple episodes of Netflix we’d downloaded at dinner (no wifi, FYI), and then crashed pretty hard. Around 4:30am we arrived in Prince Rupert, and made our way home..
This was actually the best trip of my life. Sure, I was with my favourite person on the planet, and we lucked out hard with excellent weather, but Haida Gwaii is just seriously unbelievable. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, with such strong culture and connections to nature. I’ve heard many people say it’s a very spiritual place and I’m sure anyone who has spent time there would agree – I do. Grateful to have spent such quality time in such a special place. Thank you to Mother Nature and the Haida Nation!