Hyder, AK fun

Kitwanga Travel Blog

 › entry 116 of 167 › view all entries
There's a bear!

8.21.08 Hyder, AK

 

We saw bears in Hyder today!  Determined to see at least one, we returned down the potholed 3-mile road to the viewing area.  Just before arriving, I saw a black bear cross the road behind us (in my rear-view mirror)!  We stopped and backed up- could see him eating berries in the bushes down the road embankment. 

 

Then at the viewing area, we saw a black bear (same one perhaps?) emerge along the bank further down.

Glacier lake by bear viewing area
  I got a picture, but by the time we got to that end, he was rooting around in the bushes.  Another bear was also nearby in the bushes, but we couldn’t get a clear shot for a picture.  Regardless, we felt victorious!

 

There is a glacier river nearby that feeds an amazingly blue lake that you can also admire from the boardwalk.  It looks surreal and magical.

 

There were just a few large salmon swimming upstream in the creek at this time.  They would splash and struggle upstream about 15’ and then would get washed downstream for 10’.  It looked like a tough way to make progress.  The kids quizzed the Ranger and he said that the salmon will spawn (lay eggs and die) right here, that it depends on the gravel size (too big and they cannot make a nest for the eggs) and that they had only between around the observation area to half a mile upstream before the gravel was too large.

Salmon in the river
  Ranger also said that when the salmon first hatch, they imprint the *smell* of the location and that is how they know to return to that exact location later in life.

 

Last night we stayed in a grass field that had picnic tables and an archery log just behind the SeAlaska Inn.  It is a homey lodge, hostel type of place with a saloon where they tried to “Hyderize” me, since it was my first night in Hyder.  I’d gone in to pay for the campground and get the free Wi-Fi code, but another patron saved me and tried it.  They had all sorts of rules regarding no smelling it before shooting it, turning the glass upside down, and buying the whole bar a drink if anything came up.  It turned out to be 151 proof everclear and they then smeared the drops on the bar and lit it and the shot glass aflame, giving the gal a card telling her that she was “Hyderized.”  I felt very smart for declining!

 

Doing laundry, we of course met an interesting person (as usual):  Steven from Colorado, who is motorcycling around Alaska and Canada and he’s headed our path south from here.

Friend Steven from Colorado
  He was taking pictures of a grizzly from his bike on the Haines Highway and it suddenly charged him!  He said that it was incredibly fast (must have been 35 mph from the instant it began, as grizzlies can move that fast), and he yelled at it and it stopped within 4 feet.  We compared pictures via laptops of the grizzlies we’d each seen at that location and we don’t think they were the same as his looked much bigger and probably older given it’s hair pattern.  He takes incredibly good pictures and my favorite was the one he described as “This was the last one I took just before he charged me.”  The grizzly was looking at him in that picture- pretty ominous.  I’m glad he was around to share it. 

 

Bears will often do a “fake charge” to see if you’ll run as prey, but you’re supposed to stand your ground, talk in a low voice, avoid eye contact, make yourself look big with your hands above your head, and then if it attacks, curl up in a ball with your hands over your head - don’t let it roll you over to get your tender underside.

Sealaska Inn- a Hyder classic
  There are different instructions though if they attack:  For black bears, fight back if they strike and for grizzlies, play dead for 2 minutes.  But if the attack continues, then fight back as then it’s moved from defensive to predatory.  Got all that?  I generally say “scream and run!”

 

We really enjoyed Hyder.  All the roads are muddy and potholed, the people are very friendly.  The General Store guy tells jokes and directs us down the road for ice to the Glacier Inn (we had some fridge problem that has oddly resolved, thank goodness).  There we entered the Glacier Inn Gift Store and the owner took me through to the Saloon where she scoops ice from the bar into a bag for ice.  No ice deliveries by truck here!  The saloon had dollar bills stapled all over the walls (much neater than the money plastered all over the Salty Dawg Saloon in Homer) and was quite an icon.

Hyder, AK post office
  They claim to have initiated the “Hyderizing” phenomenon in 1956 (stated proudly above the door).  We also mailed from the Hyder post office (a U.S. one), but sadly our cell phone did not work there.  It was our last U.S. opportunity for a few weeks.

 

That afternoon, going through Customs when passing into Stewart, 500 yards or so up the road, seemed silly.  (There is no U.S. Customs into Hyder).  It would have been difficult to get to Hyder in an RV in the first place if we didn’t first go through Stewart - there is only one road.  I understand the two towns even share emergency services - I’ll bet the police don’t go through Customs every time. 

 

Regardless, through Customs we went and were quizzed on weapons and “Where’s DAD???” asked in a grave voice.

Hyder General Store
  She confirmed that Dad did know that the kids were coming out of the country.  While it was our 7th border crossing, she seemed the most serious.  But she was still quite pleasant if professional, so we are relaxing a bit about border crossings into Canada.  We are certainly enjoying touring beautiful Canada, so it is definitely worth the effort!

 

We traveled back up the side road to the Cassiar Highway and made it to the Kitwanga.  After getting gas, the kind store owner pointed out nearby Saskatoon bushes and led us over to sample some of the blueberry-like berries.  She said that in the morning, we might share the bushes with a local bear. 

 

We camped directly across the street in a city-provided campground (free) in a lovely little park (of course we located it thanks to the Church’s book).

 

It is really wonderful being in such a camping-friendly location.  The people of Alaska and Canada really appreciate their outdoors - camping is a tremendously popular activity in tents, truck campers (nearly everyone seems to own a truck- very useful up here), and all kinds of RV’s.  I’m sure having cold winters makes people very grateful for the chance to get outside and enjoy the clean air and clear waters.  It makes me ponder how little “outdoors” is left in some parts of the U.S.  Certainly our National and State Parks are treasures.

 

We noted that the kids’ friends returned to school today.

  It seemed a little strange to be missing that exciting first day of school, preparing the clothes, backpacks and lunches, getting up early, and eating ice cream for dinner (“If you don’t eat all your ice cream, you don’t get any vegetables!”  Credit: Lynn Stapleton). 

 

The kids spent a particularly long time on their studies today.  They talked for awhile about their friends’ emails and hoped they were doing well, but there seemed to be no sadness at missing school or giddiness about their good fortune.  I think they realize that this is a singular experience in their lives and they appreciate the opportunity.  We’re having fun and learning all we can along the way.  It’s hard to put a value on the education that such travel provides.

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Theres a bear!
There's a bear!
Glacier lake by bear viewing area
Glacier lake by bear viewing area
Salmon in the river
Salmon in the river
Friend Steven from Colorado
Friend Steven from Colorado
Sealaska Inn- a Hyder classic
Sealaska Inn- a Hyder classic
Hyder, AK post office
Hyder, AK post office
Hyder General Store
Hyder General Store
Bear hunting
Bear hunting
Australian bear-hunting friend
Australian bear-hunting friend
Stewart, B.C. (note the streets ar…
Stewart, B.C. (note the streets a…
Stewart, B.C. (note the streets ar…
Stewart, B.C. (note the streets a…
View of mountains in Hyder
View of mountains in Hyder
Battle Hill
Battle Hill
Historic Battle Hill
Historic Battle Hill
Historic Battle Hill
Historic Battle Hill
Historic Battle Hill
Historic Battle Hill
Historic Battle Hill
Historic Battle Hill
Kitwanga
photo by: TessaHill