We slowly headed east on Highway 16, also known as the Yellowhead Highway, out of Prince Ruperta bustling little port city with dozens of First Nations totem polesand Port Edward. Fishing and whale-watching boats angled across the bay, leaving trails of foam like comet tails. At the fishermen's memorial, overlooking the mainland and other islands, engraved plaques list the names of those lost at sea. Not far out of town, the road began tracking upstream along the Skeena River, choppy and as wide as a lake at first, then shallower, meandering around broad gravel bars and wooded islets. We crossed dozens of creeks and rivulets and passed more waterfalls than we could count, spilling over cliffs hung with thick patches of moss.
By evening we'd arrived at the Minette Bay Lodge, a remote but highly civilized inn with seven guest rooms. Kayaks and canoes lay in wait near the waterline, but the main reason guests pilgrimage here is to board helicopters on its broad lawn and then hover off to the surrounding wilderness to decide which trout or salmon holein some 20 entire riversthey would like to fish all by themselves that day. Minette Bay's English-born proprietors, Dr. Howard Mills, a physician who practices in Kitimat, and his wife, Ruth, both spent time in Africa as youths and have done their share of globe-trotting. The lodge's walls and shelves are festooned with carved native masks, photographs of sailboats, a Bible from the 1500s, antique foxhunt prints, nautical charts and maps, a World War I periscope, and a two-foot-long replica of a wild boar from New Guinea trimmed with cassowary feathers. After a day's fishing, guests swap stories around a broad Scotch-pine dining table.