Haida Gwaii

Trail Stories #4. The desert southwest of the USA, “red rock country”. Mrs. Dean and I are navigating from cairn to cairn on a short loop trail, starting and ending at a parking area. We espy a pair of what we correctly guess to be lost retirees, us in a few decades perhaps, driving an RV around the continent and going on any little day hike that appeals to us. Now that I think of it, this was before we were married, she wasn’t “Mrs.” yet; must have been sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s. She had driven from Seattle to Arizona with her sister to meet up with their parents for a family vacation, and they had all ended up in Phoenix, where I flew down to meet them, the parents for the first time. Parents and sister would be flying back to Mid-Atlantic; we would be driving back to Seattle, a nice little vacation for me, a continuation of a long one for her.

Our retirees are evidently waiting at the next cairn, which our last one had pointed to. They’ve made it this far so they know how to navigate, but as we chat, we learn that they can’t see the next one, or even the previous one. They have been waiting for a while, hoping somebody like us will come along. I got the feeling they were ashamed that they hadn’t brought water with them. We let them have most of ours, but they aren’t inclined to hike with us, so we eventually set forth to the next cairn, hoping they’re watching where we go, and eventually complete the loop.

I’ve read Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang, and web-stalked Edward Abbey somewhat. Years after the retiree incident, Mrs. Dean and I took what ended up being a very amusing vacation (not only the vacation itself, but also the aftermath when I got back to work afterwards – a set piece/object lesson for the software business that I might relate someday) to Santa Fe. I always fall in love with the geography and ecology of wherever I visit, and fantasize about moving there, but of course practicalities always intrude upon such ruminations. Really, there are too many people in Redrock already. My environmental footprint would go up so much I just can’t justify it. Talk about being ashamed. Plus, it would probably never feel like home. Home, to me, from the geography/ecology perspective, involves Sitka Spruce and Western Redcedar. Douglas Fir and Deer Fern. Otters, Beaver, Orca, Copper River King Salmon.

If I were going to live remote from all urbanity, in a Pacific Northwest temperate rainforest, I’m thinking Skidegate, on Graham Island in British Columbia. Very low population density, devoted to outdoors experiences. A ferry terminal connecting to Prince Rupert. I’ve never been there, but from what I’ve read, Haida Gwaii, the name for Skidegate’s archipelago, would be a lovely place to visit. I’m sure I would fall in love with it and fantasize about moving there, and in many ways, it would feel like home. I don’t know if it’s even possible. Sure, a multi-week or -month excursion would be totally doable, but long-term what’s the visa situation, how could I get Canadian residence, do the Haida even rent or sell real estate to non-Haida? I haven’t looked into any of that. A coffeeshop with wifi, the availability of craft beers, and unlimited hiking along wild coastlines amidst my favorite gymnosperms and sporophytes. An indigenous art style that I love. But the winter weather, winter darkness, lonesomeness. I’m not sure I could stand that.

Who is the Edward Abbey of Cascadia, a garrulous, environmentalist iconoclast, nucleated by Octavia Butler, Ernest Callenbach, Ken Kesey, Ursula LeGuin?