Day 63-65: 12-14 Sep 08. Glaciers & bears in Stewart, BC & Hyder, Alaska
After I had asked the noisy neighbour to shut off their generator (which was outside their big RV!), we had a peaceful night, without any bears. Even the wind had stopped and in the morning we had a great view over the Meziadin Lake.
The way to Stewart is only about 65 km and with the sun in our face, it was a pleasant ride. The scenery is very impressive, with huge glaciers hanging on to steep walls. The road itself climbed steep for a while, but leveled out in front of the famous Bear Glacier.
Not only well-known for being one of the most accessible glaciers (the road passes right in front of the lake), but also as a backdrop in the movie Insomnia (with Al Pacino & Robin Williams). Though even in the short period since, it has retreated visibly and for the first time the glacier is no longer touching the lake directly.
The strong headwind was pretty cold and soon we continued our way: downhill! Through beautiful scenery, we freewheeled all the way back to sealevel, the first time since we started at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, a few months before..
Many people warned us that there was an aggressive bear on the loose in town. When we checked the campsite, we noticed that half of it was closed.
“Yeah, that bear is messing things up, so we rather have the campers all in one side, so we can keep an eye on them…’
That did not seem to promising, so we went hunting for a free camping spot in town. We noticed a colourful supermarket with a nice level field in the back. Inside was a woman working frantically. When we got a chance to ask her about the camping, she said it was a bad plan.
‘”This is where we keep the trash and the bear is going though trash everywhere.”
“Ok, thanks. Do you know any other place we can pitch our tent? Just a garden or a lawn would be good for us?”
“Hmm, let me think. Well, I wouldn’t mind if you stayed in our garden.” She motioned to a man standing in the shop. “George! Show these people our house!”.
George turned out to be Nedda’s husband. After mentioning that they had found some fresh bearscat in the yard last night, he took us to their place. We could leave our food and valuables safely in an old defunct car and went into town and ordered a huge pizza to celebrate our return to sea-level
Just when we came out of the restaurant 2 guys came up to us in the dark, cheering.
“You made it! Well done!”. We looked at eachother: who are these people? It turned out that Amor and his father in law Al had passed us when we were going uphill towards the glacier. We told them about our plans and Amor was so intrigued that he said he wanted to buy us a big breakfast the next morning.
We camped without being disturbed by any bear and got outside, just to see Amor running through our street, shouting our names!
“Ah, I thought you had forgotten, let’s go to have breakfast!” They had to leave soon, but we chatted over a wonderful breakfast. While they were packing, they also let us use their shower in the hotelroom, which was wonderful.
After we said goodbye, we bumped into a Dutch couple, Hans & Joan vander Puijl, who were touring through Canada. We showed them where to get the good breakfast and after we found out that they had the same plans as we did – to visit Hyder, the bear viewing platform and the Salmon glacier- we asked if we could join them.
We had a great day together, though we did not see any bears on the special viewing platform, apparently there had been very little salmon this year and most bears had left the area (to roam the trash in town instead!). They drove us all the way up to the impressive Salmon glacier, we were very happy we had not tried to do this on our bikes as the road was steep, long and gravel..
That night, we were invited by Nedda & George to use their kitchen for cooking, which was nice.
We cycled back into Hyder the next day and spend a full day at the bear viewing platform, but alas, no bear in sight. Coincidentally this was the first day that no fees were charged and also the first day that no bears were spotted… How much do the bears get paid to appear? And what do they do in their off-season?
The silly thing about Hyder is not the ghost town houses and shops, but that it is on Alaskan grounds, though the only way in is from Stewart Alaska and there is no other way out than returning the same way. Though you can enter without any problems, once you go back out, you are stopped by borderguards that need to see your passport. Where did they think we were coming from on our bikes, I do not know…
The 3rd and last night in Stewart, we were upgraded to Nedda & George spare room and had a wonderful meal together. It was nice to get to know them during these days and change from being strangers to dear friends as has happened before and will happen again during our long journey through the Americas…
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