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Carson's Alaska Newsletter #22
Location: Stewart, British Columbia Date: Aug. 12-19,2003
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On the Road with Fred and Barb - Newsletter #22

Aug. 12-19 Dawson City, Yukon to Stewart, British Columbia

Aug. 12-14 Dawson City to Whitehorse

Traveled down the Klondike Highway to Whitehorse, our second time in this capital of the Yukon. It was nice to already know our way around the town. We quickly found the Wal-Mart to drop off film but learned that their 1 hour processing was now taking 48 hours. And we were not planning on staying that long. Then on to the grocery store and Laundromat. Met up again with Suzanne and Bob Bradbury and had one last game of 6 handed jokers, the women trouncing the men once again! They will be returning via the Alcan Highway and we are taking the Cassiar.

We had saved two museums for our return trip thru Whitehorse and they were both worth seeing. The Beringia Interpretive Center has exhibits on the excavation of pre-historic animals that have been found in areas where glaciers have receded. It also tells of the land that used to connect Russia with Alaska. The Transportation Museum tells the history of transportation in Alaska and the Yukon from the time of the gold rush to today. I thought that might be boring but their dioramas and video displays were really well done. We also visited the fish ladders and hatchery where each day they count and sort the salmon coming up the Yukon River. The king salmon that make it this far have traveled over 1800 miles up river to reach their spawning site. What a feat.

Aug. 15-19 Whitehorse to Stewart/Hyder

From Whitehorse we followed the Alcan Highway south to the intersection with the Cassiar Highway. This is an alternate route to and from Alaska and passes through some beautiful scenery. Lots of lakes, rivers and mountains. The first half of the road is mostly paved with a few gravel stretches. However the road is barely two lanes with no shoulders and has quite a few dips, bumps and heaves so travel is a bit slow. Fortunately there was little traffic while we were on it. Mountain Shadow RV Park, IskutWe stopped for the night at a beautiful campground nestled below the mountains on a lake.Steve discovered his bolts on the underside of his slideout holding the storage compartments to the frame had pulled thru. So the boys had to engineer a quick fix until they could get some repair parts from Winnebago somewhere down the road. Meanwhile, the Granges have to live without their slide sliding out.

The road on the second part of the highway from Iskut to Meziadin was probably the worst we have seen the whole trip. Lots of gravel stretches, potholes and washboard. We only averaged 30 miles/hour on this 200 mile section. It was a real shake, rattle and roll. Adding to our displeasure was the fact that it was raining again and the advertised beautiful mountain scenery was obscured by low hanging clouds.

Besides wanting to see different scenery, our primary reason for taking the Cassiar was to stop in Stewart and Hyder. Stewart is on the Canadian side and Hyder is in Alaska. But you have to wonder why we don't just give Hyder to Canada. It's a very small town with dirt streets that were in very poor condition - full of potholes. All utilities are owned by the Canadians including the telephones which carry a Canadian Area Code. Many of the shops only take Canadian money. About the only American thing in Hyder is the Post Office and it only receives and sends out mail on Monday and Thursdays. When you cross from Stewart into Hyder, there is no US customs. Only Canadian customs on the way back.

We stayed in Stewart so we didn't have to drive the dirt roads in the RV and have to take the rigs thru Customs again. But Hyder has two attractions that were the object of our visit. The first is Fish Creek where you can watch the bears come to feed on the salmon spawning in the creek. Fish Creek Bear ViewingThe US forest service has built a beautiful wooden overlook along the creek. We learned that the bears usually come down to eat very early in the morning - 6am, or late evening about 8 pm. Not the best time for photography as the sun is not up at that time of the morning and is almost down at night. But in the evening we did get to see one female grizzly leaping down the creek trying to snare a salmon. She finally succeeded but think she should have been able to do it much quicker. After all there were hundreds of salmon within a very short stretch of the creek and it was less than 6 inches deep. It was really interesting watching the females digging a nest for their eggs while the males warded off competition, including the seagulls trying to snatch the eggs. Dead and dying salmon littered the banks as both male and females die after they spawn.

We decided to get up early the next morning to see if there would be more bears but we got there just in time to see the lone grizzly just making her way out of site of the viewing deck. Evidently the bear population has severly declined in the past few years, especially since they built the viewing platform. Some believe it spooked the bears.

The other thing to see in Hyder is Salmon Glacier. To see it you have to drive 22 miles up a winding dirt road. We had been told not to miss this, well worth the drive, etc. Since it was pouring rain our first day in Hyder we decided to wait with fingers crossed till the next day.Road to Salmon GlacierAfter the early morning bear viewing, we headed up the road. Unfortunately, though not raining, it was very foggy and got worse the higher we went. Waited an hour for it to lift before starting back down. Every once in a while a small piece of a mountain peak would show through only to be shrouded over again. So we never did get to see the summit of the glacier.Foot of Salmon Glacier On our way down the clouds and fog cleared just enough to get a few views of the glacier foot and of the surrounding peaks. Just enough to know it would have been a spectacular drive on a clear day. Maybe next time.

We are now continuing our way south with a short detour over to Prince Rupert on the west coast of British Columbia. We had planned to tour through the Okanagen Valley in southern BC on our way down to the states since we missed it on our trip last year. But there are many forest fires down there, with homes being evacuated along our intended route so think we'll delay up here awhile and see if they can get those fires out. It's amazing that we have had so much rain and other areas not too far away are having record heat and dry weather. I bet by the time we get down there they'll have rain too.!

Barb and Fred

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