As Bjorn and I push through thickets of devil’s club and trundle over chest-high nurse logs, the trees seem to grow before our eyes. The forest stands as a witness to the passage of time, and a nearby stream as a lifeline to the past.
The saplings at the confluence of the stream mark the present, while the giant spruce and hemlock at its source likely predate the European colonization of the Americas — so that the only humans who could have witnessed the birth of this stand of trees are the area’s Tlingit and Haida peoples.
It’s late April 2019, and my traveling companion, Bjorn Dihle, and I are on a four-day, 30-mile excursion through the heart of Prince of Wales Island along the Honker Divide Canoe Route, the island’s longest trail. We have forgone the canoes and opted for packrafts due to their size and weight; they’re easier to schlep over logs and across the many short portages.