Thursday, July 16, 2009

What, No Bears in Hyder?

Monday, July 13, 2009 – We continued on down the Cassiar Highway through beautiful scenery along a well maintained road. We have been having a little problem with overheating so when we got to a pull-out near Bear Glacier we stopped and Bill and Pam continued on to Hyder, AK to secure campsites for both of us. After a short time we completed the remaining short drive into Hyder and our site at Camp Run-A-Muck. Hyder, Alaska is an interesting spot consisting of all dirt and gravel roads, several abandoned businesses, a couple of gift shops, the Glacier Inn and Bar/Restaurant, the Sealaska Inn and Bar/Restaurant, the General Store and the campground. Suzi, who runs Camp Run-A-Muck is very friendly and helpful proudly circling points of interest in and around town as we registered. After we settled in, which was no small feat given that it took four or five attempts to get leveled, we drove up the road to the Fish Creek Bear Viewing platform only to discover that we came all this way to see the bears who have not yet arrived due to the fact that the salmon run is late. As we got out of the car Bill noticed one large black bear in the rear view mirror and by the time the rest of us saw him he was almost across the road and into the bushes not to be seen again. We stayed a short time at the viewing area before deciding to go to “The Bus” for dinner. We have heard nothing but rave reviews about The Bus as the lady who runs it is married to a commercial fisherman and she cooks all the fresh seafood in a bus. It is supposed to be delicious but we will have to wait and see because when we arrived we were greeted with a hand-lettered sign saying it was closed for the day. Oh well, we thought since seafood was out of the question we would go have some pizza at the Sealaska. We drove the equivalent of a block or two and parked in front of the place and went inside only to be told the kitchen was closed. So as a last resort we drove over to the Glacier Inn and Bar. When you step inside you notice that all of the walls, every square inch of them, are covered in bills with messages written on them. This is a common theme in Alaska as we saw it at the Howling Dog Saloon in Fairbanks, the Salty Dog Saloon in Homer, and now here in Hyder. The bills starting appearing in 1956 and in some places hinged panels have been installed making the layers of bills 3 deep. According to the waitress there is over $80,000 worth of bills on the walls. In addition to the bills there is an assortment of animal trophies and hard hats mounted throughout the place. The Glacier Inn’s claim to fame is that the bar was used as The Eternity Bar in the filming of the movie Leaving Normal and tourist are reminded to go there and get “hyderized” before leaving town. We all had the halibut nuggets with fries and found them to be good but not fantastic which we are finding to be pretty much the norm. After we had dinner we returned to the Bear Viewing platform where we saw no bears but we did see a pair of beavers, several spawning salmon, and some bald eagles.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 – We headed toward Salmon Glacier with a stop at the Fish Creek Bear Viewing platform only to be told that there had been two bears a little earlier but they were now gone. We continued on up the gravel road toward the glacier and the farther we went the foggier it got. At about mile 13 on the 20-mile drive it was apparent that we were not going to see any part of the glacier since we could barely see the side of the road. We turned around and returned to camp with another stop at the viewing platform only to be told once again there are no bears. We kept an eye on the sky and when the clouds and fog cleared late in the afternoon Bill and I once again headed up to the glacier. Our persistence paid off with one of the most spectacular views we have ever seen. Although we have seen dozens of glaciers we have never had the vantage point of being up above the glacier and looking down upon it. The sky was completely clear and some young visitors we talked to said that it is rare for the sky to be so clear and that very few people get the view we got. Up until this point in all of our travels Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon have been the most awe-inspiring views we have seen but the Salmon Glacier is certainly at least their equal. After spending about half an hour at the top we made our way back down the mountain to our campground. When we got back we told Bill and Pam that they absolutely had to drive up there and see the view for themselves because our words could not begin to do it justice. While they drove up we went over to “The Bus” for our seafood dinner. We had halibut and since it was our last night in Alaska we also splurged on an order of Alaskan king crab legs to share. We shared a table with four men traveling by motorcycle from Illinois and Alabama. During dinner we asked them if they had seen the glacier and they had not. After hearing us rave about it they really wanted to see it but did not have enough gas in their bikes and the gas station was already closed so we loaned them our car. We walked the short distance back to camp and about two hours later the bikers returned with our car. They were as awed by the view as we were and we very appreciative that we had insisted they go and take our car. After they got their bikes and checked into their hotel one of them came back and gave us his card and said if we are ever in Alabama to be sure and look him up. In the morning we will leave Alaska and continue south on the Cassiar Highway toward Prince George, British Columbia.

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