About 3.5 km from Port Clements is the infamous Golden Spruce Trail. So the story goes, once upon a time on the banks of the Yakoun River stood an anomalous spruce tree with golden needles. It should not have been able to survive with such characteristics and yet it defied the odds and lived for hundreds of years. Known as Kiidk'yaas (meaning "ancient tree") in the Haida language, it was revered and considered sacred by the Haida people. In 1997 an unemployed forest engineer bought a chainsaw, swam across the Yakoun River in the middle of the night, and strategically cut the tree so that it would fall the next strong gust of wind. Fall it did. The reason for the destructive act by the man, I've heard varying stories from the locals, but one thing is agreed upon by all is that he was quite mentally ill.
Many people on the island and even across Canada were saddened and enraged by the destructive act. The person was eventually arrested and told to stand trial in Haida Gwaii for his crime. He never made it to trial. Apparently, he intended to travel from Prince Rupert to Masset by Kayak via the Hecate Strait. What was believed to be his broken kayak and effects were found on Mary Island in June 1997. I like to think nature took its revenge. He hasn't been seen or heard from since.
So yes, a bit of a sad story associated with the trail. However, if you take the trail, which I recommend you do if you come to Haida Gwaii, you will be embraced not with death and destruction but with thriving life in all its natural beauty. As I travelled through the trail I was taken aback by the lush green vegetation and the various bird song that erupted throughout the trees. On the right-hand side of the trail is the Yakoun River, the largest on Haida Gwaii, known for the variety of salmon that migrate through it every year. It's a beautiful trail not to be missed by anyone on the island.
Only a small section of the trail is maintained regularly. Of course, I kept going as far as I could, wanting to see as much of the area as possible. Over fallen tree stumps and through the grass, following the riverside, I went as far as I could. There are ribbon markers placed on trees to help people find their way back if they stray too far. As well you'll find at the first portion of the trail a number of interpretive plaques posted to trees. I've taken pictures of the plaques and wrote out what they say which will appear in a companion post to this one. You can click through the images I took of my journey on the trail in the image slider above this post. If you'd like to know more about the Golden Spruce read The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed by John Vaillant.