Trip Report, Hyder, AK

Aug 17th, 2006, 10:03 PM
  #1  
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Trip Report, Hyder, AK

I returned from a week's stay in Hyder a couple of days ago. I haven't gotten my notes organized for a report yet but I have posted some photos if anyone is interested. they can be seen at http://www.worldisround.com/articles/309702/index.html.

I'll get a more detailed report put together and posted on this thread in the next few days.
dwooddon is offline  
Aug 18th, 2006, 03:38 AM
  #2  
 
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Hi dwooddon!



Thanks for sharing your awesome pictures-and I like when posters include photos of themselves b/c then I can put a face to the words!

Maybe the shy bear who kept ducking down when you tried to take a picture was Amish-hahahah!

The pictures you took of the flowers were very cool although I think my favorite is the one called Portland Canal-nice shot!!

=D>
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Aug 18th, 2006, 07:39 AM
  #3  
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Thanks for the kind words NatureGirl. While I was there, I spent at least an hour every day just enjoying the serenity of the Canal.
dwooddon is offline  
Aug 18th, 2006, 09:00 AM
  #4  
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Oh I enjoyed your pictures, dwooddon.

My SO would love this area, even the bears. I love the woods, but those bears would have scared me death. Can't wait to hear your report.
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Aug 18th, 2006, 05:00 PM
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I go to either Canada, Alaska or both almost every year and Iím also an avid photographer. So, this year I decided to combine both interests in a driving trip up through British Columbia to Hyder, Alaska to photograph the gathering of bears. The trip did not turn out quite the way I planned it but more of that later. For those who havenít seen it, there is a link to my photos in the Travel Photos thread.

Using United Airlines Frequent Flyer miles, I flew from Las Vegas to SFO then to Seattle. Check in at LAS was easy and fairly quick Ė about 15 minutes in the line to get to the TSA security screening. The flights were smooth and on-time and I had a very good view of the Yosemite Valley on the first leg and the Washington mountains and Elliott Bay on the final leg.

I had reserved a full-size sedan with AVIS but they did not have one. The offered me a Ford Taurus instead. Now the Taurus may be many things but full-size is not one of them. I wound up settling for a Chevy 4wd Blazer at an added cost of $9 per day and I plan to take that up with AVISí corporate offices.

I cleared Canadian customs and immigration at the Sumas crossing. There was no one in line and with my passport and a polite attitude, I was cleared into Canada in less than thirty seconds. The border officer was pleasant but asked the requisite questions (firearms, where are you going, are you planning to leave anything in Canada, are you carrying more than $10,000 in cash).

The drive up to Hyder from Seattle went fairly quickly. Except for the last 150 miles, I have been across this entire route at least once and, for parts of it, three or four times on the train. Since my objective was to get to Hyder for the bears, I drove steadily for the two days it took to get there. On reflection, I think I prefer the train if it is possible. Although the train parallels the road, for much of the route, tracks run along the rivers and streams. The road is usually offset a little more and the rivers and lakes are often hidden by foliage.

I stayed the first night in Seattle at the Marriott-Courtyard in Lynwood ($65 on Priceline). Like most such properties it was clean and comfortable.

I took the most direct route: I5 , WA20 and WA9 to Sumas; CA1 to Cache Creek; CA-97 to Prince George; the Yellowhead Hwy (CA16) to Kitwanga; the Cassier Hwy (BC37) to the Hyder Cutoff; and the Stewart/Hyder Cutoff (BC37A) to Hyder.

My second overnight was at the Talisman Inn in Quesnel. (walk in - $64.98 CDN including taxes). My AAA tour book showed it as a 2-star and I think that was a about half a star too high. There was nothing wrong with it but itís showing its age.

Arriving in Hyder is a surprise. As far as I know, this is the only road in the United States where you enter from another country but do not clear customs or immigration. There is a Canadian checkpoint coming out of Hyder but no US checkpoint coming in. The reason, I suppose, is that there is no place to go once you get there except back.

None of the (three or four) streets in Hyder are paved. Since Hyder is so far away from any other US city and since it has no bank in town, the entire town, except for the post office operates on Canadian currency (and Canadian time) instead of US. A few businesses operate but many are out of business. I stayed at the Sealaska Inn with a reservation at $54 US per night. The room was OK Ė nothing special and my only complaint was that although there was good water pressure in the sinks and tub, the shower head was little more than a drizzle.

Hyder is Bear Country. As I was unpacking shortly after arriving, a Dutch tourist took a picture of a bear (and her invisible two cubs) at my front door. I did not even know she was there until the tourist showed me the photo and she was kind enough to email it to me. This is not the only, or even the closest, encounter I had with bears while I was in town. They were all over the place almost all the time. Black bears walked through the edge of town and into the RV park (and my motel), blacks and grizzlies were feeding along all the rivers and creeks, and other blacks were seen along roadways, in clearings and on hillsides.

I have about 90 bear photographs that turned out reasonably well and discarded another 50 or so. All told, these photos include about 25 separate individuals. In addition, I must have seen another 50 bears in situations where I could not get a photo. Often, they were just too fast for me, disappearing into the brush before I could bring my camera up. Sometimes, I could have taken a photo if there had been a safe place to stop my vehicle. There were several situations where I was able to see bears through foliage that was too dense for my camera to achieve an adequate focus. Finally, and most often, I was presented with dramatic photo opportunities of the north ends of southbound bears.

About 3.5 miles north of Hyder, the US Forest Service has built and operates a viewing platform along a shallow, very clear stream called Fish Creek. During July, August, and early September, that area attracts a large number of bears because of the huge amount of salmon that come there to spawn and die.

You canít count on just walking up and seeing a bear. It takes some patience. I went there every day, sometimes in the morning, occasionally in mid-day, and often in the evening. Bears showed up each time I was there except once but sometimes I had to wait two or three hours before one did. One of the highlights at this viewing area was a grizzly sow with three dark colored cubs. They showed up each evening I was at the platform and, unlike most of the other bears, they stayed for awhile. Most would catch a salmon and disappear into the brush. Mama and her cubs frolicked along the banks, waded and swam in the creek, caught lots of salmon, and generally put on a great show.

The cubs were too little to catch anything but that did not stop them from trying. Mama more than made up for it because she caught a fairly large number of fish each time I saw her there. Sometimes she and the cubs would eat them entirely. Other times, she would give the fish to one or the other of the cubs while it was alive, Iíd guess to give the cubs experience handling live fish. Donít worry about her depleting the supply, Fish Creek was packed with salmon Ė at least 700-800 at a time and more coming every day to replace the ones caught or that spawned and died.

One evening, after I had finished at the platform, I was driving back into Hyder and, on a whim, pulled into a little side road that ran for fifty feet or so down to the Salmon river. Just as I arrived at the end, an old grizzly came meandering along the bank looking for food. Initially, I was about thirty feet from it. It got as close as ten feet to me. Since I did not have bear spray or a gun, I was very careful. All the photos I took of it were from either inside my car or with me standing alongside my open door, ready to jump back in the moment it took any interest in me. Iím sure it knew I was there but it never once gave any clue that it did.

Other animals also used Fish Creek as a supermarket. I saw several dozen bald eagles and at least a couple of golden eagles. However, most of them would not get close enough for a good photo. In addition, during the trip and at various places, I saw several dozen deer, marmots, Canadian geese, a small squirrel-like animal is think is called a pika, and a mink.

Another major attraction of the area is hundreds of glaciers. Some were large, some were smaller, and one was absolutely gargantuan.

Salmon Glacier is about 25 miles north of Hyder and up a steep, twisty dirt road. You could make the trip in a passenger car but I was glad I had a 4wd, high-clearance vehicle. The glacier is very dramatic. The main body comes down out of the mountain in two wide, deep arms and surrounded by towering, craggy peaks. After it reaches the valley, it runs toward the sea for at least five miles, feeding the Salmon River.

One day, after passing the Glacier, I continued on for another ten miles or so back into mining country. Most of the mines are shut down and abandoned but there are a few still operating. The road is steep, pot-holed, and narrow. I would not recommend it for anything larger than a pickup or SUV and it is questionable if you do not have a 4wd, high-clearance vehicle. The country is magnificent. There are more glaciers, high peaks, and broad river valleys. I think this is as close to real wilderness as you can get in a car.

There is a profusion of plant life in the area. Most of it is just leaves, ferns, or trees and is not hugely photogenic. There are many colorful plants as well. These include elderberries and one of my favorites, fireweed. In the Hyder area it is not as profuse or as deeply colored as it is in areas further north. Alaskans call it their summer clock. It begins to bloom in early summer at the lower part of the stem. As the summer progresses, the earlier blooms die out and newer blooms flower higher up the stem. Alaskans know that when the top of the stem blooms, snow is not too far behind.

Hyder and Stewart are both situated on the east end of the Portland Canal, an inlet of the Pacific ocean. The Bear River runs past Stewart and drains into the canal. The Salmon runs past Hyder, also draining into the canal. It is a tidal inlet and there is as much as a twenty foot difference in normal low and high tides. It is not a bore tide since the canal is so broad but it is impressive to see as much as a mile of tidal estuary uncovered at low tide then covered as the tide rises. It is also peaceful and serene and I spent an hour or so almost every day just enjoying it.

For the most part, dining alternatives are uninspired, both in Hyder and Stewart. There is a combination deli and photo gallery that is open for breakfast and lunch and makes a decent grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The pizza place in Hyder is OK. The very best, though, was Premier Seafoods. I was so spoiled by their Halibut fish and chips, I had it several times. It is the best I have ever had, anywhere. One evening they had run out of halibut and I enjoyed a King Salmon fillet, covered in garlic butter sauce and grilled. It was also excellent. I can't recommend the place highly enough!

I have been asked about fees for use of the viewing platform and I checked with the USFS Rangers. They tell me it was originally planned to implement a fee for use of the platform this year but they ran into some bureaucratic tangles. They now plan to start the fee next year. They don't know yet how much it will be but they did say they would honor National Park passes.

A word of warning for visitors heading that way this winter or later: There is only one bank and one ATM in the area, in Stewart, and it is closing in mid-October and taking its ATM with it. Unless something else opens, and there appears no prospect of that now, there will be no place to get cash within almost 200 miles by road or 70 miles by air. Remember, Hyder operates on Canadian currency and credit cards so be sure to have enough to last before you leave civilization.

For me, seven days was enough in Hyder but I had originally scheduled for ten. The hotel was very kind to refund the last three days and I decided to head to one of my favorite places on earth, Jasper and Banff National Parks in Alberta. More of that later.
dwooddon is offline  
Aug 18th, 2006, 05:03 PM
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Actually, the "more of that later, comment above was wrong. It should have said "See my Trip Report for Jasper-Icefields Parkway on the Canadian forum and a yet to be published Glacier National Park Trip Report on the US Forum for the rest of this trip".
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Aug 18th, 2006, 05:04 PM
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I shouldn't be posting when I'm tired. The reference to the photo link in the first paragraph should have referred you to the first post in this thread.
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Aug 19th, 2006, 03:31 AM
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I greatly enjoyed reading your trip report and seeing your pictures! Thank you.
dfrostnh is offline  
Feb 10th, 2007, 08:49 AM
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TTT
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Feb 10th, 2007, 07:10 PM
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Thanks for the information and the pics you included. Hyder is a new place for me.
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Mar 28th, 2009, 06:18 PM
  #11  
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I'm headed back to Hyder for bear photography again this summer. Does anyone have any updates on the area?
dwooddon is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 08:03 PM
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Great photos and report. Thanks for sharing.
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