Distance: 97 km
Elevation: 750 m
Date: August 11, 2022
At 7am, Hugh had made coffee and we got talking about life in general. Louise works as an education manager for a school of the First Nation. He had worked as a dental practitioner providing healthcare to members of the First Nations for 18 years.
When COVID came, he did not want to get vaccinated and lost his job. He is now working as a carpenter on a freelance basis, obviously earning much less than before. The event location is also contributing to their livelihood.
It is fair to say that Hugh has a very pessimistic and dark view about what is going on in the world. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it but it was good to hear his thoughts which are based on a lot of reading and critical thinking.
On the other hand, he and his wife are the perfect hosts and treat complete strangers like friends. It is fascinating to see how both aspects don’t have to oppose one another.
Hugh had been part of the recent freedom convoy were thousands of truckers, who were opposing mandatory vaccinations, and other people like him were driving towards Ottawa, the capital, to protest directly in front of the parliament against the COVID policies of the government.
After saying good bye to Louise and Hugh and inviting them to stay at our place when they come to Germany I was in the saddle again around 9:30 am.
After 10 km I finally saw my first living black bear. He was eating some berries besides the road about 5 meters away from me. I think we both were equally scared. While he was running away I was shouting something like „holy shit“. It all happened so quickly.
Again I followed the Skeena river all day. In the afternoon it got very hot again when I was approaching Hazelton. It was about 30 km to the next campground but I felt exhausted. So I reached out to Stacey, a Warmshowers host in Hazelton who I had been trading messages with.
Luckily, she was super flexible. She would be back home by seven. So I hung out in a café and caught up on my social media stuff. It was good to be out of the sun. I had asked the owner of the cafe, „Zelda‘s traveling coffee mug“, if it was ok to hang out for a bit. She then found me on Facebook and read about my project. She said „but before you leave we need to take a picture together“. So, this is what we did.
In Old Hazelton there are several different bands of the First Nation living. There is also a reconstruction of an old village of the Gitxsan tribe directly by the river. The wooden longhouses were closed already but it was impressive to see nonetheless. N
ext to this village, the Gitxsan had several camps in the area where they would live based on the season and the vegetation. They had camps by the river for fishing salmon and camps in the mountains for hunting mountain goats. They also had walks were they would find the most berries.
After collecting these „history points“, I climbed up the hill to Stacey’s place in Grizzly road. To say that it was steep and remote is a vast understatement. It is a beautiful house made of wooden beams at the end of a sandy trail high above Hazelton and it has a magnificent view to the mountain scenery around.
On my way up I came by a handwritten banner saying something like „The same people who were responsible for the residential schools are telling you now how to deal with Covid. Wake up!“
When I arrived uphill, I had a chat with the lovely neighbors who instantaneously offered me cold water and a nice chat while I was waiting for Stacey. Chris was speaking Cantonese to their daughter and his partner was speaking French to her. Together they spoke English. A funny combination.
Stacey arrived a little later. She was a teacher in Hazelton‘s high school and her husband was teaching, too. He was just out fishing. I set up my tent in their garden and had a cool shower while Stacey was making dinner. Salmon and salad. Yummy! We ate on the terrace looking to the mountains and a had a very good conversation.
90% of Stacey’s students are First Nation. There are a lot of social issues here and during COVID around 40% of her students dropped out of school. I need to understand the topic of Residential Schools better. I hear this term so often. These schools must have traumatized a whole generation of First Nation people. The last one was only close 1998. Many were killed or committed suicide later.