My First Flight into the Great Bear Rainforest
I will never forget the first time I saw the sun shining on Princess Royal Island, the fourth largest island on the B.C coast and deep in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. This island holds some of the last remaining coastal temperate rainforest in the world. It was May 2000, and I had recently quit my full time teaching position in Sudbury, Ontario, packed up my truck and moved west to follow my passion for guiding in the outdoors. After a year in Vancouver training to be a guide and inspired by Ian McAllister’s Great Bear Rainforest book, a DeHavilland Beaver float plane transported me from the northern B.C. coastal fishing town of Prince Rupert deep into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest and Gitga’at Territory. As we softly touched down on the serene, emerald green waters of Barnard Harbour not only had I arrived at King Pacific Lodge to work for the season but at that moment I began a powerful journey, a new path that changed the course of my life and continues to this day.
A Season Missed
For the first time in twenty years I was not able to spend any time in the Gitga’at community of Hartley with the communities closed to visitors due to the COVID pandemic. I am usually there in July, August and September guiding clients on our Great Bear Outer Island, Stand and Wild Trips. I’ve missed the connection to the place and people of the north coast as both have had such a profound impact on my life and for those clients who have made this journey with me.
As I write, wild pacific salmon have spawned, the bears are getting ready for their winter nap, and the Humpbacks have started their long migration south to birthing waters in Hawaii and Mexico. The Gitga’at have done most of their seasons harvesting except for the cockle and clams that usually take place under the light of a lantern and on the big winter tides. As seen in the above photo, the winter days are short and I work side by side with the Gitga’at as we use pitch forks to dig up cockles at low tide and fill five gallon buckets. As our fall turns into winter and the rains and storm systems return to the coast I look forward to springtime in the Great Bear and the opportunity to return once again.
Standup4Greatbear Society – Products with a Purpose
Many of the products we have in the expedition shop help protect the Great Bear Rainforest through our Standup4Greatbear Society. In May 2010 I, along with sea kayaker Brian Huntington of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, stand up paddled the proposed Enbridge oil tanker route through the Great Bear Rainforest from the Haisla community of Kitimaat, 400 km south to the Heiltsuk village of Bella Bella. My goal was to bring awareness to the threat of oil tankers to the wildlife and pristine marine ecosystems of the Great Bear and to highlight the traditional food harvesting areas of the coastal First Nations communities along the route.
Adrian Richter letting the experience sink in on Raven land in Kweltsu. Our expedition was called Standup4Greatbear and now the mission of the society is to promote the education, awareness and protection of the Great Bear Rainforest through speaking engagements, school presentations and ongoing conservation expeditions. Partial proceeds from the sale of all items on my shop page will goes to organizations like BC Whales, the Raincoast Society and Pacific Wild that are helping to protect our magnificent coastline for future generations. Read on to learn about some of the items that would make great gifts for any explorer in your life. All of these items were inspired from our coastline and the Great Bear Rainforest
Sprout Spirit Bear 12’ Inflatable SUP
Did you know that Gretchen Gamble’s design on this board represents the Legend of the White Bear & the Raven’s Decree? At the beginning of time, so the legend goes, the whole world was white with ice & snow. “Then the Raven came from heaven and made the world green as it is today. But he also wanted to make something to remind himself of the beginning and it’s whiteness. So on this special island, he went among the black bears, and every tenth one he made white – that way he could look at them and remember the world the way it was ……. then the Raven issued a decree: “The white bears will live here forever in peace”
A light and well designed board for overnight touring or leisurely exploratory paddles the Spirit Bear will remind you of your connection to the land and water. $20 from the sale of each board goes to the Standup4Greatbear Society.
You can PRE ORDER these boards for delivery in spring before your paddling season.
If you If have been on one of our trips to the Great Bear Rainforest then you have tasted this coffee. This medium to dark coffee is roasted locally by our friends and longtime supporters of Standup4Greatbear, Lance McClure and Cara Barth of Galileo Coffee Co in Squamish, B.C. Did you know that Lance was on one of our first seven day paddling trips to the Great Bear Rainforest? Shortly after that expedition Lance roasted his first bag of Standup4Greatbear Coffee to help support our society. Thanks Lance!!
Order your fresh roasted coffee here.
Blackfish Steersman Paddle
This paddle is another collaboration with locally-owned Blackfish Paddles known for their craftsmanship, durability and performance. Blackfish Paddles and owner David Smart are huge supporters of the local community and our coastline. Our Steersman design on the blade blends two incredible artists, Cash Bo Smith, a Gitxsan artist from the Skeena River who designed the expedition logo representing Raven, Bear & traditional canoe paddle and Roy Henry Vickers whose Standup4GreatBear Crest sits behind the Steersman crest.
Order your Steersman Paddle here.
Sunova Steersman Expedition
This is my signature expedition board designed in collaboration with Sunova Surfboards. The Expedition Eco is made using Paulownia Wood which is a tree that is native to South East Asia and is the highest strength to weight ratio hardwood on Earth. It reminds me of our coastal Sitka Spruce, another light yet strong wood. Wood has a completely different feel when you are paddling it, providing that connection to something naturally made and features the Steersman Logo. The board comes in a variety of sizes to fit you perfectly depending on your paddling goals. I have been really happy with this board and it has taken me on many coastal adventures including our most recent paddle around Cape Scott.
You can PRE ORDER this board for arrival in March of 2021.
Oracle Deck Cards – Messengers from the Great Bear
I first met Sarah last year at a Christmas craft show and was blown away by her incredible hand drawings of wildlife. Her dragonfly is my favorite. Anyone who knows me or has been on a trip with me knows that I look to all creatures for signs and guidance. They all have a message to tell, we just need to listen and to ask for their help. I am personally excited to incorporate these cards into my trips.
Messengers from the Great Bear Oracle Deck cards were created by Sarah Hammond and Brenda Holmes. Together they share a passion for foraging a deeper connection, not only with their innermost selves, but also with the world in which they live. Sarah’s stunning hand drawings, paired with Brenda’s interpretations, have created a deck unique to the geographical location in which they both reside: Beautiful British Columbia. One of the most beautiful aspects of connecting with the creatures around us is the vast amount of wisdom they hold, and the knowledge they can impart about our deeper selves. Their teachings are innate and intuitive within each and every one of us – we only have to rediscover it. Sarah and Brenda hope this deck brings your self-exploration deeper insights and enhances your connection with your intuition, dreams and subconscious. 5% of your purchase goes to CPAWS to support healthy parks and wilderness.
Order your Oracle Cards here.
Inspired by our STAND film project with design by filmer Nicolas Teichrob, our Stand hats and toques have been found all over the world, some barely recognizable after continuous use on the ocean. A simple and effective message keeps you supporting our coastline and has you part of a movement of conservation and protection of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Pick one up here.
Book a 15 min Gear Consult with Me
For more products and Christmas ideas for the paddler and coastal adventurer in your life, please visit the shop page. If you have any questions about boards, paddles, gift certificates or anything else from the website I am offering a free 15 minute gear consultation for you to help answer any of your questions.
Gift with Purchase: Free Online 1 on 1 Expedition Coaching
I am excited to start some one on one online expedition coaching in the new year. Topics can range from discussion and support with expedition planning, weather, navigation, gear choices, distance training and much more. But for now, anyone who makes a purchase in December will receive a free session with me to be used by the end of February 2021.
$1000+ – receive a free 60 min coaching session
$500+ – receive a free 30 min coaching session
$250+ – receive a free 15 min coaching session
Learn how to put your new gear to good use and fill 2021 with your most epic expedition calendar yet.
Last Day of 2019 in the Great Bear
I haven’t been to the Great Bear Rainforest since September 2019. My client, Zvi Goldfarb and I spent the day looking for Spirit Bears with my longtime friend and Spirit Bear Guide Marven Robinson. We had spotted earlier in the week, and hoped nature would grace us again.
Our highlight though would come later in the day as we left the river. As we were about to depart on my boat for the short trip back to Hartley Bay, a big Black tailed deer came bounding out of the forest and into the water. I knew what we would see next, and on cue a coastal wolf came out quickly behind it in pursuit of the deer not seeing it in the water but picking up its scent. Deer head to the water when being chased by wolves, they are adept swimmers and the wolves will usually work their way along the shoreline in hopes of an ambush when the deer gets out of the water. This is exactly what happened, a game of cat and mouse between predator and prey carried on. The deer would get to shore and the wolf would attack and chase it back in. I realized how persistent and committed the wolf was and what efficient predators they are, smart with an incredible sense of smell.
Unfortunately the day was getting late and we had to leave the drama unfolding. We never did know the fate of the deer but it was an exhilarating final day in the Great Bear Rainforest. Hopefully we will be back soon to take part again in the life cycles of people and wildlife but until then I remain thankful for the experiences I have had in Gitga’at Territory.