Category: People of the Wild

People of the Wild: Gord Pincock

People of the Wild is a blog series profiling residents of British Columbia who have one thing in common: their love for exploring the BC wild. This week we’re featuring Gord Pincock, a professional sea kayaking guide who uses his decades of experience to show visitors to BC the stunning, remote beauty of Haida Gwaii.

What do you do and where do you live?

My name is Gord Pincock and I am a professional sea kayak guide and wilderness explorer with my company Butterfly Tours. I feel like I’m a bit migratory in that I live in different locations depending on the season. In the winter months I live in Sechelt, which is where I have my primary residence, but every June for the last thirty-four years I’ve headed up north to Haida Gwaii for the summer months. I was born and raised in Vancouver, but I have also lived in Tofino. Aside from spending a few months at a time doing guiding work in the Caribbean, I’ve essentially lived in BC my entire life.

Photo: Gord Pincock

What is it that makes you proud to call BC home?

I feel more a sense of gratitude than pride. Some of the most wonderful things about living in BC are so simple, that unless we bring our attention to them they can be overlooked. I am endlessly grateful for the plentiful, clean, fresh water and air. I’ve travelled quite a bit throughout the world and there are a lot of places where tap water is not drinkable. Here we have awesome water flowing from the mountains and accumulating in numerous freshwater lakes. It’s the norm here for the environment to be clean and the air fresh.

How does BC’s nature and wilderness inspire you?

I feel like wild places can essentially rejuvenate us. I know I’ve experienced that myself and I certainly feel like I’m witnessing that while guiding my tours. I guide weeklong tours with people so I get to see them come fresh into the wilderness and then transform into these wilderness beings that have been rejuvenated.

Photo: Gord Pincock

Also, I think being in the wilderness can enable us to know ourselves better. I’m often reminded of the saying, “If you want to get to know someone then travel with them”. I think if you want to get to know someone really well, then travel through the wilderness with them. And if you want to know yourself, travel alone in the wilderness. But as a practical disclaimer, a tremendous amount of preparation and training is required in order to safely travel in the wilderness by yourself. However, part of what my company offers is the ability to travel through the wilderness in organized groups with someone who has experience. My experience enables me to manage the risk of the wilderness while my clients still get the chance to allow the wilderness to show them who they really are.

That’s an underlying concept or philosophy for my life. I’ve been changed through some long solo trips in the wilderness. In my twenties I used to go for weeks or months at a time alone up in Haida Gwaii and I would come back transformed. Those experiences have remained foundational to my life and I can utilize what I’ve learned during those times in pretty much every aspect of my life.

What would you say makes BC’s rainforests so special?

One of the things that I continuously and simply enjoy, so much so that I feel it right down to my very bone marrow is the timeless sensation of exploring old growth forests. You can see old growth that is so old that it fell over a century ago and it’s now a nurse log for other new growth. Essentially you’re looking at continuous and timeless life cycles. It’s like looking back through centuries of a natural calendar. But conversely, you’re also able to project forward and imagine a new seedling as a future nurse log. For me, the rainforest has the similar effect to that feeling you get when you look up at the stars and feel really small.

Photo: Gord Pincock

Another quality that makes old growth forests really special is that there are so few remaining on Earth. True old growth forests are entirely different than tree farms, and thankfully BC still has some intact virgin rainforests. The first one that springs to mind is the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. A few decades ago it was at risk of losing even more of its rainforest, but as a result of the activism and protests, they stopped the logging, shut down the logging camps, and created the National Park Reserve. Sometimes I like to describe it as a place that has been sustainably logged for ten thousand years, because the Haida people have lived there for that long.

What would be a place or experience that you would recommend that a new visitor to BC not miss this summer?

I would suggest that they go find a place with what I call a long view toward a wide expanse of distant horizon. There are many places in BC that fit this description and I would suggest they find at least one that is a bit difficult for them to get to so that they get the satisfaction of having overcome a challenge.

The reason I suggest this is that staring into such vast spaces, similarly to the sensation of stargazing, gives me a sense of realism into whatever is going on in my life. I might think I have troubles but after a walk where I’ve looked out onto the horizon, I realize that I’ve got a few first world problems, but I am just fine. It shifts my perspective.

Photo: Gord Pincock

For example, when I lived in Tofino I would often go out to Long Beach to do this. Although thousands of people go there, it wouldn’t take long for me to climb up on some rocks and get to a higher location where I could spend hours alone. I would get some solitude combined with a beautiful view and this incredible sense of distance. I continually see this impact my guests on my weeklong tours. While I’m making dinner I see them sitting and just gazing out into the wilderness. I figure it’s an original form of meditation.

Then, after finding one of these places, I would suggest seeing how it feels to take no photos and share no social media. Being unplugged can be an exception these days but it can truly provide an entirely different quality to the experience of being in the wilderness. For the first twenty years of my career I did all my guiding and paddling with no camera. I didn’t take any pictures because my philosophy was that it would bring me more into the here and now. And it does. Now I do travel with a camera, partly because I want photos on my website to keep my business going, but I’m careful when and how I bring it out. As soon as I’m looking through the lens, it’s not the same degree of here and now. A camera can enhance the experience in some ways but it certainly detracts in others.

What would you say is BC’s best-kept secret?

For me it’s definitely the west coast of Moresby Island on Haida Gwaii. That’s one of the places I used to do my long solo trips and it’s incredibly remote. You can spend weeks up there and see no one else. It’s on the map, so it’s not a secret, but it’s so rarely visited that it may as well be.

Any last words of advice to somebody thinking about visiting BC?

Less is more! BC is a vast and diverse place. If you’re visiting with limited time, I’d suggest that people consider narrowing the scope of their explorations. The danger with attempting to see it all is that it could actually result in experiencing less of what this province has to offer. I’m often discouraging guests from trying to fit too much in and encouraging them to slow down and take their time.

Photo: Gord Pincock

Follow along with Gord’s BC adventures here.

Discover more of BC’s People of the Wild
here and here.

The post People of the Wild: Gord Pincock appeared first on Explore BC.

People of the Wild: Mike Willie

People of the Wild is a blog series profiling residents of British Columbia who have one thing in common: their love for exploring the BC wild. This week we’re featuring Mike Willie, a member of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation who resides in Kingcome Inlet, in the Great Bear Rainforest. Mike works in cultural tourism and is a passionate speaker and educator involved in aboriginal language and cultural revitalization.

Where do you live in BC?

My name is Mike Willie and my First Nations name is T’ɬalis. My Mom is First Nations and I grew up with her in Kingcome Inlet, in the Great Bear Rainforest. Kingcome is a really remote place. It’s about sixty-five nautical miles from the nearest town by water and the population is about eighty people. It was an awesome place to grow up and call home. As kids we were allowed to play outside in the forest or down by the beach. We did a lot of hunting and fishing for sustenance, which you can still do there to this day. We had a school that went up until grade seven and then you had to move out for high school.

I have my own aboriginal tourism and water taxi business called Sea Wolf Adventures. It is based on reconnecting to our land and language through the work of culture revitalization. The foundation of who we are is the territory and land that we come from. Our language comes from the land and is only a reflection of our surroundings, so the inspiration for my company was to get out there into the natural surroundings.

Photo: Mike Willie

Why do you call BC home?

That’s a funny question. I’ve been here my whole life and my ancestors have been here forever, or for thousands of years at least. The number keeps creeping back as archaeology keeps discovering or uncovering new findings. And our origin stories bring us back to the Kingcome Glacier.

I call BC home because of my First Nations ancestry and also because I love the nature. We have supernatural things within our own First Nations culture, but I believe BC is supernatural in itself. We have the life and energies of the forest and water. My culture and my love of nature are two aspects that are blended for me because First Nations culture is really based on all of that. When we have our ceremonies, it’s all linked and tied in to the energies from the forest and land.

Our culture is entrenched in nature and is a reflection of our surroundings. I recently had my first potlatch, so I’m now a hereditary chief from my nation. We dramatized all of our stories and we sang a lot of our songs. The best way to explain it is that all of our songs are a record of past events that happened thousands of years ago. The beauty of oral tradition is to be able to remember that way and to pass on knowledge through stories, songs, and dances.

Potlatch Ceremony. Photo: John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail via Mike Willie

The potlatch went really well. Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Canada were there as well and we rekindled a relationship that was started in the 70s with them between our hereditary chiefs of the Kwakwaka’wakw. It kind of died out for a while so we just wanted to re-spark it and have that relationship.

How does being out in nature make you feel?

It touches on all aspects. There’s an essence of cleansing and of being cleansed when you’re out in the forest and the fresh air. After a nice rainy day in the Great Bear Rainforest, once the rain stops everything becomes crystal clear to me. You see clearly and very plainly. We actually have a native word for that – we call it “awal”.

We also have a practice of going into the forest if you want to find direction in your life, or if you’re having a hard time or you need some kind of answer. We go out into the forest and fast for four days without food and very minimal water. That’s where you collect your thoughts because you’re by yourself and you are free from distractions. The animal life around, the birds and wolves and sometimes bears, becomes a challenge and becomes part of it. But you come out of the forest knowing a direction and knowing there’s an answer for your questions. That was developed over thousands of years with our people and it worked for me – I’ve been three times now.

Grizzly Bears. Photo: Mike Willie

On your typical day out, in the BC wild, what do you normally bring with you?

When I’m in the forest I bring some rope, a fold up hacksaw, and a headlamp. I like my Icebreaker merino wool, so I pack a spare shirt. I also have my Canon G16 camera and if we’re going for a long walk then I bring a CamelBak and hydration bags. It’s pretty much the same thing if I’m out on the boat. It’s always safety first so I bring lots of food and water as well as life gear, safety gear, and floaters.

Describe your perfect day in BC.

My answer to this is intertwined with my answer for how nature makes me feel. A perfect day for me has those moments after it rains and it clears. That’s one part. Another example is if I’m on the water in my boat and I come across some humpback whales. It’s hard for me to explain but the only words that come to mind to describe that experience are family, closeness, and connection. My name that I gave you, T’ɬalis, is actually a whale name. We have a story that goes back thousands of years about our encounter with the whales.

Another aspect of a perfect day is being in the forest. The air is different once you’re in the forest among the greenery. I’m an educator now, and from a research point they say that it’s actually great for development to get out there in the forest. I believe that’s why people find that serenity and the pulling and calling from the forest. We all seem to have that response to nature in common.

Photo: Mike Willie

The ability to reconnect by getting back to nature is a simple concept if you think about it. Our people developed these systems and processes for our people to really clear their minds and become stronger. Bathing in ice-cold water was another strengthening and revitalizing technique. It’s interesting to see sports teams do that now when we’ve done that for thousands of years and it’s reflected in our stories. It’s pretty amazing how things are starting to come up through science and research but they’re simply from nature and we’ve had them all along.

What are three things that you would suggest that a new traveller to BC not miss this year?

I would definitely recommend they check out Kingcome Inlet where I grew up. The way of living up there blows people away. When you are there you experience a unique solitude and it almost seems like you are going back in time. Last year was the first year of bringing travellers there. To get there you head up on a bigger boat like a water taxi, but then you’ve got to get in a little boat and head about seven miles (11km) up the Kingcome River to get to our village. When I was younger, that little boat was a dugout canoe with a outboard motor on it. When you get to our village it is surrounded by towering mountains, so it’s quite the breathtaking site.

Secondly, I would say go visit Gilford Island. It’s our sister village and there’s lots of history there. They have the oldest standing ceremonial longhouse in Canada. It was put up in 1887, and it’s quite significant and still in use. My Uncle Don just renovated it and reinforced the structure last year. So if people want history, there is a lot of history in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Lastly, I would definitely get out on the water. Anywhere works, but an accessible example might be from the northern tip of Vancouver Island. It’s amazing and easy to connect with the marine life. You can also go to Port McNeill or Telegraph Cove, or Alert Bay to head out on day trips.

What would you consider to be BC’s best-kept secret?

Kingcome Inlet! In Kingcome we have the second oldest longhouse. It is almost a hundred years old.

Any last words of advice to someone thinking about travelling to BC?

Be prepared. Be prepared for supernatural British Columbia. And don’t forget to look up. That’s what I tell all my family and friends. If you’re in and around mountainous areas, don’t forget to look up. In our ways the mountains are protectors, so pay tribute just by looking up. And don’t forget to put your feet in our rivers. I’m all about washing away negativity and our rivers are the way to do it.

People of the Wild: Mike Willie

Follow along with Mike’s adventures here.

Discover more of BC’s People of the Wild here and here.

The post People of the Wild: Mike Willie appeared first on Explore BC.