Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hyder Alaska

When we crossed into Alaska at Hyder this morning it seemed like we were going to a third world county, or maybe back in time to the old west. Part of it was that none of the roads in Hyder were paved. And there were a lot of abandoned buildings and businesses no longer in operation. There was kind of a helter skelter arrangement of buildings many of which had "For Sale" signs. People were scarce and dogs ran loose (but were friendly). It somehow didn't seem surprising that there was no customs entry point on the US side. We went in to see the areas 2 prime attractions which are the wildlife viewing platform on the Salmon river and the Salmon Glacier. We expected to find signs to direct us to the tourist attractions and found none. We took the only road out of town but thought that we had gone to far for the wildlife viewing platform and might somehow have missed it so we turned around and ended up back in Hyder. We headed to the post office to ask directions, realizing too late that it was Sunday. The General Store listed its hours as being from noon until 5, and we were there in the morning. Nothing else seemed open. We looked through some papers in the car and decided that we must not have gone far enough, so we again headed up the only road out of town. We saw a small black bear along the road and got a picture as it turned away from us into the woods. We found the wildlife viewing platform around a half mile from where we had turned around. We saw neither fish nor bears which are the main attraction. We saw some water fowl that we did not recognize.

This is what you see as you enter Hyder , there is no border guard here except on the Canada side.

This is the view we had when we were returning from the viewing platform as fishcreek, it is awesome!!!!

After leaving the wildlife viewing platform we continued up the road to find the Salmon Glacier. We spent a long time driving a relatively few miles up the winding gravel road that got more difficult as we continued. We had a constant view of snow capped mountains, viewed several waterfalls coming off the side of the mountains, the rapid waters of the Salmon river, several small ponds, and the lush vegetation of the Tongus National Forest. We evidence of recent rock slides in several places. In addition to many small rocks there were 2 boulders, the larger of which surely weighed more than our car. At one point there was a sign that said "chains or winter tires required". We shrugged and said that our tires would be good enough for this time of year. A few miles later we were above the snow line. A lane wide enough for one car had been plowed. We continued up the road as it got steeper. We knew that the Salmon Glacier is in Canada but can only be approached from the Alaskan side. We were surprised that we saw no sign indicating a border. We only knew we were back in Canada when we saw a sign saying "50 km/hr". We continued until we came to where the road was blocked by a truck that was parked across and had had a minor incident when some barrels of fuel it was unloading had fallen from the truck. I got out to see how long they expected to be blocking the road. They said "you can't go past here, the road is blocked by snow and there is a tree across the road". They asked us not to park there as it was a helicopter fueling area and "you don't want to be there when they are landing." Oddly there was no sign but there there were fuel barrels and a pump. We went down to the next wide spot in the road and were able to view the "toe" of the Salmon Glacier. When we got back to town we talked to several of the locals who turned out to be quite friendly and eager to talk about the local attractions. They confirmed that no one was able to get to the top of Salmon Glacier yet this year and from those we talked with it sounded like we had been as high as anyone.

These are pictures of the road damage.

These are the only views that we could see of the Salmon Glacier.

Everyone we talked with said that if we wanted to see bears we should be able to find some and they gave us suggestions. Based on these we drove up the road on the B.C. side in the early evening. We saw no bears there so we went back to Hyder to the wildlife viewing area and spent some time without seeing bears or other notable wildlife.

We stopped at the bar in Hyder and had a drink. We talked with the bar tender who said about 9 p.m is a good time to see bears at the viewing area. While at the bar, we decided to get our pictures with the only bear around, just in case we did find any more tonight.

So far this is the only grizzly that we have been able to find, think he likes Dennis.

Since it was about 8:30 we decided to give it one more try. Again we viewed the beautiful setting but did not see the bears. On the road back there was a motorcyclist who seemed to be having a problem. We asked if everything was all right. He said said that he was find just frustrated that he couldn't find any bears to photograph, so he was settling for a picture of the bear shit on the road. We had been seeing much evidence of bears in the area all day. We agree that the answer to the old question "Does a bear shit in the woods?" must be "No, they go to the road to do it".

You can get really great ice cream at this log building, the owner is a great source of information about the area.

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