– Words by Lia Crowe Photographs by Darren Hull
“We’re going to stay calm and quiet and tread lightly.”
I hear myself nervously repeating the instructions of our grizzly guide through clenched teeth as I address the fashion team, which, under normal circumstances, is loud and energetic.
From the boat, skippered by our trusty captain Leon Timothy, we step onto land at the end of Toba Inlet and are greeted by Cheyanne Hackett, a guide and cultural interpreter from the Homalco First Nation, a close neighbour to the Klahoose First Nation. Dressed in traditional clothing, she welcomes us in her her ancestral ayʔaǰuθɛm language against a backdrop of steep, mist-laden, dark green hills that drop straight into the waters of Desolation Sound.
Klahoose Wilderness Resort is 100 per cent Indigenous-owned; it’s a remote, off-grid, luxury eco-resort set in the absolutely breathtaking wilderness of the traditional territory of the Klahoose First Nation. It has a rustic feel, with a row of cabins and a big lodge containing guest rooms, a dining room, a glowing wood-burning fireplace and the luxury of comfort, quiet and peace that allows one to unwind.
For this issue of Boulevard, the fashion team had the honour of experiencing the resort while shooting fashion that celebrates local Indigenous designers. The team, including photographer Darren Hull, makeup artist Jenny McKinney, stylist Sarah D’Arcey, model Linsay Willier Kendall, and me, as creative director, arrived in our typical flurry of activity, carrying an impressive amount of bags and equipment.
We got right to it, unloading, asking a million questions and Instagramming every moment of it, until we were asked to come into the main area of the lodge to meet cultural ambassador Klemqwateki (Randy) Louie. Randy started by telling us a little about himself and then honoured our group with a welcome song composed by Drew Blaney of the Tla’amin (Sliammon) Nation. As his voice rang out to the beat of his drum, our busyness turned to calm and we dropped deep into the richness of sharing—and the real magic of our experience began…
“Look!” our guides, Leon and Cheyanne, say in hushed voices sharp with excitement. Our team is focused on setting up our first fashion shot in the grizzly bear viewing tower, so I look where they are pointing. Adrenaline jolts through my body and every hair stands on end as I see a dark shape emerge from the trees to become a large female grizzly that splashes towards us through the salmon-filled shallows of the river.
That night at the lodge, we gathered around the dinner table. Randy joined us, our cheeks were reddened from a day on the boat, our bellies were full and the conversation was lively after the excitement of the day. We were lucky enough to see a grizzly in the wild, a few humpback whales and several sweet little porpoises. We visited a raging waterfall that charged down the mountainside directly into the sea and bathed in the mist. We had the opportunity to make cedar roses with the gracious and patient Annita Noble of the Klahoose First Nation, jump off the dock into the ocean to an audience of resident seals, and tour the trails of surrounding mossy forest.
The nature and wildlife was nothing short of majestic, but the real take away from the whole experience was the depth of sharing honoured upon us from our hosts.
You can find the Klahoose Wilderness Resort website here.