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Hyder, Alaska

August 15, 2013

Alaska – Sunday, August 4

As I was packing up, a young lady on a 4-wheeler came by and asked me if there had been any bears in the campground last night. I told her I hadn’t seen any, although the guy last night said there’s a small one that wanders around sometimes, but he says it’s harmless – hmmm. (The couple who run the place are older, and they’re from Maine – they’ve been driving from Maine to Alaska for years to run the little campground – that’s a long haul!) The young lady told me she was up here with her husband and kids for the second summer in a row while her husband works on the big hydro-electric project in the area, and they had stayed in a trailer in the campground last summer, and had seen bears in camp, and one had even walked right up to their rental house in the village recently and done some damage. Bears might be an extra problem this time of year since the river is so near, and the salmon attract them, but at least having all the salmon available might distract them for a while from other food.

My goal today was to drive the 17 miles up the mountain to look at the big glacier, but I was going to go back to the bear-viewing platforms first. Things were much clearer in the broad daylight, and once again I was struck by the clarity of the water – it was so easy to see the different markings on the fish. The ranger told me the salmon were mostly chum salmon (the bigger ones) and pink salmon, and that they had swum from the Bering Sea and the Sea of Japan. Most of them were still pretty silvery/gray, which are their ocean-swimming colors. They start getting more pinks and reds on them once they enter the spawning grounds. One of the signs explained that the combination of clear water and clean gravel made for ideal spawning grounds, and it was pretty easy to make out the many “nests”. This was kind of the end destination for them, so most of the fish were kind of stationary in the current – all of them facing upstream. There was a little chasing-around activity over the nests, and sometimes one fish would chase another off. The water was so shallow that the backs of some of the fish were out of the water, especially when they were trying to make their way through an extra shallow spot. They were pretty mesmerizing to watch. And then a couple bears came out to fish. Like last night, they just kind of wade and watch – I wonder how they choose the fish they’re going to get. Then they quickly pounce and come up with their breakfast. The first bear didn’t even get its hind end out of the water before feasting, and we could hear bones crunching – the guy next to me said he was happy that wasn’t his leg or something!

Once the bears wandered off, I tore myself away and headed up the mountain to see Salmon Glacier. The drive up was a very rugged gravel road, and it was steep and rocky. The 17-18 miles took a long time to drive, partly because I stopped frequently. I passed an old gold mine, which is no longer an active mine, but something else is going on there because there was more road work in that one section. And then the glacier became visible and it was huge. The road kept climbing and climbing, and I stopped several times for scenic views of the glacier, but it just got better and better the higher and higher I went. It was a fascinating view of a glacier from above, and when I got to the top of the road there was a little parking area, and I could see all the mountain peaks and the ice fields that the glacier came out of. It made me feel like I was on top of the world! Truly spectacular. I was sooo glad those people in Whitehorse told me about this – I wish I could thank them, but I have no idea who they were. I spent quite a bit of time at the top, soaking it all in. I just love the shades of blue in the ice. I got Tula out and we walked for a while. Other people set up chairs and just sat and gazed at the beauty of it all. I don’t think there are sufficient words to describe how spectacular it was!

Eventually I began to make my careful way back down the mountain. Every vehicle that goes by kicks up a cloud of dust, and the van was filthy – I could use the wipers on dry dust! I stopped at the bear platform one more time, and just stood there watching all the fish. And then the lady I had met in the gas station yesterday came up to me – they had decided to check out the bears too! They hadn’t driven up to the glacier yet – her hubby doesn’t like to get their truck dirty! But I told her it was definitely worth the dust! They hadn’t seen any bears yet and were going to come back in the evening, when they were more likely to be around, but about 5 minutes after they left, another hungry bear appeared. Most of them are usually napping in the heat of the day, but this one didn’t take long to catch his prey, which he quickly ate and then wandered off upstream. Then it was time for me to head out, and continue heading south.

I drove down the little main street in Hyder and took a couple of pictures, and then I’d pretty much seen everything there was to see in town. It’s hard to believe people actually live here year-round. The general store didn’t even seem to have a lot of food and supplies, but I imagine they’re pretty careful about quantities of things that are brought in. I got through Canadian customs and drove for several hours – mostly south, and a little east, past the town of Smithers to the little town of Telkwa, at which point I began to get back into civilization. I was noticing the falling darkness (no more setting up late at night in natural light!), and had seen signs for a campground in Telkwa that sounded pretty nice, but when I found them, the place had already closed for the night. So I backtracked to where I had seen a small sign and an arrow pointing to another campground, and I wasn’t sure what I would find down the road. I met a lady on a golf cart, and she said they had one spot left, and it ended up being one of the prettiest, most spacious campsites I’d stayed at. Tula and I took a walk around after I was set up, and all the sites were large, and set back in the pine trees. Some of the sites had so much equipment in them – an RV, several tents, trailers, boats, cars, bikes, kayaks, etc. It’s still fun to see how some people decorate their sites with rugs, lights, signs and little knick-knacks – they’re the ones who are there for a while! It was kind of cool out, and I slept like a rock after my amazing extra day in Alaska!

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One Comment
  1. Love the pic of you and Tula with that gorgeous background. And I’m still marveling at your adventure and making the trip through your blog. 🙂

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