Archive for February, 2012

Instructor Stranded in Paradise

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

On September 7th, a phone call came through to our office from one of the ArborCanada Trainers – Danny LeBlanc.  Danny was in Kincolith, BC (or Gingolx) which is a Nisga’a Village in the Nass River valley in the far northwest corner of BC.  Kincolith is a small coastal village on the edge of a water way of the Pacific Ocean, over which you can see the Alaska Panhandle.  Danny was teaching a 2 day Tree Dynamics & Integrated Risk Assessment program for the North West Community College.

Danny:                  “Nancy – I don’t think that I’ll be able to get out of Kincolith tomorrow night to catch my flight out of Terrace.”

Nancy:                  “How come?  Is everything okay?”

Danny:                  “Everything is fine, but we are having heavy rains and the Ministry of Transportation has closed the highway leaving Kincolith because of flooding and landslides affecting the Nisga’a Highway.”

Nancy:                  “Is there any other way out of Kincolith”

Danny:                  “No, there is only one road in.  The only other way out is by boat.  However, the ferry shut down several years ago when the road was brought in, so there are no boats to get out on.  It looks like I’m going to have to wait out the rain and hope that the road has not sustained too much damage to repair and travel on soon.”

Nancy:                  “Keep me posted and let me know tomorrow what updates they have given you so I can cancel your flights if necessary.”

That was Wednesday afternoon.  By Thursday, there were no new updates.  There was still a heavy rainfall watch in place and the road was flooded and no one knew the extent of the damage.  The course that Danny was teaching was finished on Thursday.

It could be that many people (including me!) would be envious of Danny’s predicament.  He was stranded in one of the most beautiful spots in the world – if you like mountains, the ocean, forests, eagles, bears, fish and friendly, cheerful people!  If you can catch the silver lining of a cloud – Danny was living a travel ‘perk’ that some of us may only dream about.  Welcome to the exciting variables of ‘life on the road’ – Danny!

Many thanks goes out to Lavinia and her family at Lavinia’s Bed and Breakfast.  One of my first questions for Danny was:  “Will they supply you with a bed until you can leave?”  Lavinia and her family were very hospitable and gracious to Danny and provided him with a warm place to sleep and kept his belly full.  He was privileged to experience a rich culture of First Nation’s traditional food dishes such as sea lion and other northern delicacies.

Friday brought long walks around the village for Danny.  Being the only non-local person in the village, everyone knew who he was and he was greeted with smiles and laughter by the locals, as they teased him that perhaps he should purchase some property and find a partner to get comfortable with!  He was told that it might be weeks or even months before he could leave, usually with an underlying chuckle.  They even picked out the residence they had available to sell to him.

"It's a fixer-upper Danny!"

I think that Danny was starting to get just a little worried.  I haven’t mentioned yet that Danny’s cell phone didn’t work in this remote area and he couldn’t hook up to the internet and e-mail his family back home.  He was using a land line to make important and necessary phone calls – but having easy contact with family wasn’t much of an option.

Friday late afternoon, I got another call from Danny.  He told me that he might have an opportunity to ‘catch’ a ride out via water with the Coast Guard boat, as the local band government had decided to send some of the staff to Prince Rupert for some baby supplies and perishable goods that were running low in some of the households.  He would be dropped off in Prince Rupert and then catch a bus over to Terrace to get a flight the next day.  If he was given permission to do this, he needed to know whether I would be okay with having someone from the village drive the rental vehicle back to Terrace once the road way opened up.  Arboriculture Canada was responsible for the vehicle that was rented – and we would be trusting the safety of this vehicle with someone we didn’t know.  I told Danny that I trusted him to make this judgement call.  Lavinia’s daughter, Abby was willing to drive the car back when the highway opened – and Danny vouched for her trustworthiness.

I wasn’t sure what was happening until I received a call from Danny about 4 hours later.  He was in Prince Rupert and preparing to get a bus ride over to Terrace.  He was clearly exhilarated, as he shared that he had just had an open ocean ride in a Zodiac Coast Guard boat for 2 hours along the waterway between Alaska and BC.  It was an adventure he’ll never forget!  To cap off the experience, he was privileged to see the beautiful northern lights for only the second time in his life.

This type of situation has occurred in this community before and happens in surrounding communities, as flooding and landslides or severe winter weather cause road closures from time to time.  Because of its location on the Nass River near the Alaska Panhandle, Gingolx was once an isolated village, the only ways able to get in being boat or plane. This isolation combined with the surrounding mountains meant Gingolx would often suffer power outages due to snow during the winter months. Residents could go as long as 3 weeks without power until helicopters could be flown in to fix the lines.  In 2003, a 28 km road from Gingolx to Greenville was completed, which connected Gingolx to the other three Nisga’a communities. This road, the Kincolith Extension Highway, links Gingolx to the Nisga’a Highway with connections to the Yellowhead, and Cassiar Highways.  Every household is given a two way radio so that announcements can be made during emergencies when necessary.

We extend many thanks to the people of Kincolith and Lavinia’s B&B for your friendliness, laughter and hospitality.  Thanks to Abby for driving our rental car back to Terrace when the road was opened later that weekend.  I would consider it a privilege to be forced to slow down life in an area of such pristine beauty and untouched nature.  Danny – you experienced a little piece of Paradise!