Friday, July 2, 2010

ALASKA DAY THREE: Glaciers! Glaciers!

View a sample of today's 300+ pictures

Cool night, but up at 5:45 to a GLORIOUS view out my little tent window! That should help sell these tents! We pack up, shower, and are on the road by 6:50. The skies were clear on the glacier this morning, but cloud banks are rolling in.
Rick and I took a walk last night out in front of the campground. Checked out some of the flowers we’ve been trying to identify at 60 mph! Lots of clover and what looks like a bright red cinquefoil. Also learned that BC is in the middle of the worst bug kill in history.
Shortly after Rick sees the rear end of a moose go into the THICK undergrowth, we stop in Mauricetown, an First Nation town to view the Telwye (sp?) Falls, an Indian fishing spot and a quaint white bridge. Then up to a convenience store for a coffee, a picture of some NW Indian art, and we are off for Hazelton and the Stewart-Cassiar!
The views are getting great! Front and back, north and south – more mountains with snow, more green hills. We seem to be out of the bug kill area, so the forests are green now again.
Around 8:30a we make the turn north on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Behind us is the full range of the coastal mountains – north a broad green valley between two ranges.
…..It is now 7pm and our tent is pitched at Mezelian Lake Provincial Park near the junction with 37A which runs down to Stewart-Hyder. What a day this has been! I haven’t taken time to do anything but snap pictures from the truck windows. We have driven down to Stewart and Hyder, eaten lunch at “The Bus” and climbed 3600’ back up from sea level to a point above the Salmon Glacier, returning to the junction to make camp at this provincial park when the park we were going to camp at in Stewart didn’t allow tents due to extreme bear problems.
Highway 37A down to Stewart is flat out gorgeous. I can’t even begin to count the number of glaciers we saw today, receding yes, but definitely in abundance! Some are just tucked into the highest of cirques, others stretching arms down creating highways of ice. Pretty spectacular. Our drive down this morning, the tops of the mountains were wrapped in fog and clouds, but we could see most of the glaciers. Steep walled canyon much of the way before opening up to the usual wide braided river, common in these parts, that meets the ocean in Stewart. I saw a beaver dam. In addition to snow and ice, we saw plenty of long, long cascading waterfalls. The hillsides, covered in thick shades of green, appeared to be sprouting water everywhere! Avalanche chutes in many places. I can imagine the road closes frequently in the winter, or all winter, as they also receive up to 35’ of snow in Stewart.
Stewart, BC sits on the alluvial plain of the Bear River. A fairly neat little village with a very nice visitor center,. BC does invest in its tourism trade! We pick up some information and then check out the local campground – not overly impressed. Then into Hyder, Alaska, which sits out on a point of rock (steep rock) about a mile and a half from Stewart. You do cross the border into Hyder, but they don’t check anything!
Hyder is a little dumpy compared to Stewart. We weren’t as impressed with the town or the campground there either. But…Rick had heard of the SeafoodExpress “Bus” so we visited it for lunch. The gal cooks in an old bus, painted all up, and serves outside or in a separate room if it is cool, and it was a little cool outside when the sun wasn’t shining. We moved inside and enjoyed a generous serving of fish and chips – halibut!
After lunch we drove 23 miles up the “Glacier Road” to view Salmon Glacier….and probably another 15 glacier in the process as well! Steep, steep canyons and high mountains! Again, waterfalls tumbling down every draw. We had a guided auto tour brochure to help us pick out the many mining and natural features along the way. We had no idea the road was going to climb as high as it did. Washboard in many places, so not the easiest driving for Rick. At the summit, we saw the huge expanse of Salmon Glacier and Summit Lake, formed from the glacier. The lake actually sits on the east side of the pass, but the lake drains to the west….under the glacier! Weird! It also means a mini flood everytime it happens! Because it is like pulling the plug in the bathtub! The ice dam finally melts through each summer and all the water in the lake comes out!
Back down the road. We see the tail end of a marmot dart into the bushes. Stop at Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing area. This site is crazy in late July and August when the salmon come in and the bears come visit. It probably brings more visitors to the Stewart-Hyder area than anything else. Right now it was an extremely peaceful quiet walk along a boardwalk listening to a multitude of birds. Rick saw an otter or a weasel or some small river animal hide in some bushes, but he’d never come out for me! L As we near Hyder, Rick thought he saw a moose in the river area, but the willows are so thick we can’t check right away.
We return to Hyder around 4:45 and stop at the little store for a couple “souvenirs”. I pick up a pin for Luke. Jed wouldn’t have thought the Hyder keychain unique, so….too bad!
Over to the Bear Creek Campground where we discover the “No tents or soft-top trailers”. We would have been out of luck with the tent-trailer too! So.,…quick decision made to head back up the Stewart Highway to the Provincial Park.
And glad we did! The sun was clearing over the glacier peaks by the time we had driven halfway back up. I snapped even more pictures! (Must have taken over 200 today!) Not just sunshine, but even some blue skies! Once we get to the lake, the sky is again overcast. Good chance of rain tonight. Let’s hope not, but we are prepared.
Total miles today: 294 (only 167 of which was Baker to Fairbanks mileage!)
Wildlife sitings: Marmot, beaver dam, river critter, possible moose

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