My back-to-school adventure this fall is in Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada: population 2,000 and 450km/270 miles northwest of Vancouver.

It’s in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, the setting of my next novel, and I’m speaking at the high school there while conducting research for my book. I’m excited, because I’ve never been to Bella Coola before!

The visitor guide says it’s “a glacier-carved valley with snow-capped peaks and granite ramparts lining the way.” Perfect for the latest young-adult adventure story I’m writing.

“One of the world’s largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rain forest, this lush, protected ecosystem is a virtually untouched wilderness. At two million hectares (27,000 sq. miles), it encompasses an area nearly as large as Scotland!”

I feel overwhelmed and excited by all the possibilities. How much can I pack into less than a week?! Here’s some of what I’ve learned…

  • The glacier-carved valley is the head of one of BC’s longest inlets.
  • There’s an old cannery, ancient fish traps, a federal salmon hatchery, petroglyphs, pictographs and natural hot springs.
  • The original inhabitants, now called Nuxalk, have occupied this region for at least 10,000 years (5,000 years before the Great Pyramid was built in Egypt). They’re said to have arrived “on the eyelashes of the sun” (or by land or ice bridge from Asia, or via watercraft from the South Pacific).
  • The first recorded visit here was in 1793 by explorer Alexander Mackenzie.
  • There are moose, wolves, cougars, white mountain-goats, black bears, grizzlies, the white Kermode bear (“spirit bear”), dolphins, seals and eagles.
  • Nearby Tweedsmuir Provincial Park was created in 1938.

Bella Coola, here I come!