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Being drawn into the familiar
- 24 artists converge at jiinanga
by Astrid Greene
It is every outdoor educator's dream: all participants, wearing proper hiking
gear, arriving on time and willing to take direction from those who know
the terrain. You might expect punctuality from a group of mountaineers,
but not from twenty-four artists, who according to a popular stereotype
are poor candidates for any formal group activity. But shortly after 8 am
the first load is ready to board the Kingii. Terry Husband, its owner,
tells me that the name of his boat means 'always looking
down into the sea.'
Aboard we look as much to the horizon as down into the water; to pigeon
Guillemots-easily recognizable for birders-to-be by their orange feet and
rapid wing movements during take-off-and to Double-crested cormorants with
their slight kink in the neck during flight. On a rock they form a crown
shape; silent sentinels to this peaceful morning. The water is calm, almost
mirror-like and the mist is slowly rising. I look for logs in the water,
but can't see many. On either side of Skidegate Narrows, we see evidence
of logging activity: a dryland sort extending to the water and only patches
of trees are found on the hills of the opposite shore.
Forty-five minutes later we pull up to Ralph Nelson's boat already moored
at jiinanga. Ralph Nelson and Julia Brobbel volunteer as guides for those
who want to hike, but we are free to just experience jiinanga. Glaciers
have carved out a valley, where streams run into creeks. As we come ashore,
I am struck by the Spanish moss hanging from the trees, like the fringes
on a wide shawl draped around sturdy shoulders. A log extends into the water
and through an opening, I can see a steady growth of salal bushes, reminding
me of a planter.
Ralph points out a shelter used by surveyors and others as a storage area
and Julia works immediately at getting a fire going. We follow Ralph past
the candelabra trees. The tops have blown off and their branches have grown
out sideways. Just like these trees are exposed to the wind, we now are
exposed to everything that makes this environment so special.
We follow a game trail and everywhere, we can see fresh fish remains-a sign
that the bears have been close to the creek. Both Government Creek and Security
Creek are among the richest areas for chum salmon and herring.
Climbing over logs, down and up embankments, we find stiff clubmoss; its
spore powder can be used to stop bleeding. An orange tape jolts us back
into reality. "This is where the logging road is supposed to go in,"
says Ralph who has been walking this place for many years­p;in the past
under a Fisheries contract and now, because he
truly is in awe of the area.
We are headed close to a bear den and Ralph shows us some paw prints covered
with leaves and says: "It is strange how bears will always walk back
into their footsteps. Living at the bottom of a large tree a bear and her
cubs are well protected from the elements; but they aren't anywhere near
During the hike back, we notice salmon fry, and Ralph tells us that they
can make it across some of the gravel, so we don't need to worry too much
about leaving them landlocked. We walk along the creek for awhile enjoying
the sun. Then I see Peggy who stopped midway to reflect and sketch. Back
at the campsite, I feel the same need. While others are off to an alpine
meadow I watch a Kingfisher plunge into the water, and under the canopy
of the trees, the sunlight appears to be dancing.
With my hiking buddy Eileen, I walk along the water's edge to the grove
of twisted cedar trees. Low on their trunks, we see a fungus, and surrounding
it like bracelets are thick pearls of a fluid. We ask Rolf Bettner, a photographer
and biologist, to tell us about the fluid. He tastes a tiny drop and decides
that it is water, although to us it looks viscous. We walk back to the shelter
and regret that we didn't bring a bag; there is some garbage that has washed
up on the shore and a little beach cleanup can't hurt. Terry Husband has
caught a fish for the group, but, feeling full from a lot of nibbling, we
don't mind that we are too late to sample it.
Someone found another's missing camera and brought it to the Kingii. For
all of us who have spent time in this unlogged watershed, these are special
moments and I am looking forward to the show on January 23,1998 at the Haida
Gwaii Museum at Qay'llnagay. I wish that future generations of artists and
hikers will still be able to experience this area intact.
(See the Pictures Section on the cover for photos of jiinanga.)
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