Day 7 – Hyder, Alaska – Glacier Visit and Lunch in Stewart, BC
Travel Time: Back and forth most of the day – about 55 kilometres
Low Temp: 8 celcius (sunrise – what a beautiful sunrise)
High Temp: 24 celcius (mid-afternoon)
The goal of this trip was to tackle some unfinished business from my last trip to Alaska – see some bears eating Salmon. Really, that is it. I saw plenty of wildlife and bears last time but I really wanted to see it as part of the natural salmon run.
I was able to catch the sunrise coming into the fjord this morning. It’s quite a beautiful place and it’s part of the Misty Fiords (Fjords) Park – every day the valley is lined with a wispy light fog. The plants and surroundings are laden with dew and the colours just jump when the sun comes over the mountains. Hopefully I’ve captured at least part of that feeling with the photos below.
We got up earlyish, actually David was up well before my lazy ass, and got breakfast. David snuck over to the Glacier Inn early and I rolled over about 8:30am. The food was a breakfast like you’d get if your grandma made it for you – good, simple, homemade food.
It’s an interesting little place because the shell of the building is from the turn of the last century and the decor and finishings are easily 40 years old. The coolest part of the building is that every single surface of every single wall is covered with paper money. Yes, money! The deal is that people like to drink and gamble up here and often run out of cash (and or luck) at the end of their travels. You are to mark a bill with a felt pen and staple it to the wall so that if you ever are out of money or down on your luck you can return, peel the money from the wall, and have at least one drink – and hopefully, your luck with change. Quite remarkable wall paper.
After breakfast, David was in full riding gear. I decided to ride to the viewing area (about 5 kilometres) in shorts and a t-shirt. I normally advocate “All the Gear All the Time” but I figured that with no other cars on the road, a speed limit of 20 miles per hour, and little chance of issues with the road that I’d just go ‘naked’ – so to speak. I understand why people don’t wear gear, it’s a pretty neat feeling. This was one of the few times ever that I’ve done this and won’t be a habit. I paid a little bit because it was actually quite cool and crisp outside.
Arrived at the Fish Creek Viewing Area and there are a zillion Salmon spawning. Thought this would be a good sign. We stood and waited. Waited and stood. No luck. We spotted a wolf walking the creek in the distance and stealing some fish but nothing that we could photograph. We’d have to come back later.
Up to the Salmon Glacier. Last time I rode my dual purpose bike and going up the road was a piece of cake. Well, with a sport bike and the condition of the road it was quite a challenging ride. So much more of the bumps are absorbed by the rider and potholes and washboard are not a forté of street bikes. Ouch!
We spent about 45 minutes up at the viewing point at the summit of the road. This is such and amazing place and such supernatural beauty. Both times I’ve been here I’ve been completely gobsmacked at the immensity and scale of the place. Imagining how this valley was once filled top to bottom with ice is beyond reason – at least mine. The glacier hangs up and over the mountain range and the portion that is visible is many kilometres long (about 10-15 in my estimate).
Apparently up the road 8 more kilometres is the Granduc mine. It’s been closed since the 1980s but is still mostly intact. This will have to wait for another time and a more appropriate bike as the 30 kilometres to get back to town is going to be as much as my humble body can take.
A quick stop at the Wildlife Viewing Area and… NO BEARS! Foiled again. Still lots of fish. Still lots of tourists and photographers. No wildlife. I was beginning to get discouraged.
Had a good chat with a fellow who was from just outside of Calgary. A professional photographer that had just finished about 8,000 kilometres of driving and taking photos. He’s a freelancer so selling photos is his game – must be tough to make a living that way. Genuinely nice guy, helpful about photography, and doing what he loves – can’t get much better than that.
We decided to sneak back to Stewart for lunch which means crossing the border back into Canada. The town is only 3 kilometres away from Hyder but requires a passport for re-entry. No issues with the crossing – quick and easy.
We had lunch at the Bitter Creek Restaurant on the main drag in Stewart. The food was by far the best of the trip. I’ve included photos below because it was absolutely relish! Fresh fish, creative salad and a dessert that one of the ladies working their just whipped up for us. I asked if I could have the rest of the pan it was so tasty.
Back to the hotel to crash for a while and chill. The pounding on the road was quite a bit for my body. I’m already very sore most of the time and this felt like I’d been in a world heavyweight boxing match.
David texted that we should go up to the wildlife viewing area one more time just to see. At 5:45. Well, in retrospect I understand why he was a bit peeved when we met. He had his watch still on BC time. Even though this is a sliver of Alaska it is still another hour different in time. So I think he thought I was late. Doh!
When we arrived at the Viewing Area there was commotion and drama – a good sign. I literally got off my bike, took off my helmet and gloves, then walked about 50 feet to the deck to have a look. BEAR! Finally. It was literally right below me – about 6-8 feet down and 10 feet in front. I snapped photo after photo but got only one good one. What a big daddy or mommy this bear was! Gigantic. What a magnificent creature. The sad part of the story is, according to the Parks volunteer, they have become habituated to humans because of the viewing platform and of the 20 bears that frequented the area only 5-6 remain. They’ve had to move or put down the others. A cruel irony of conservation – attracting interest may also jeopardize the very creatures you are trying to raise awareness of.
After a quick spin back to the Inn we called it a day and prepared for our long journey back to Prince George. A great day all round!