On Thursday we reached the junction of the Cassiar Highway and Glacier Highway, which goes over to Stewart and Hyder, about noon and decided to go on to Stewart instead of stopping at Meziadin Lake for one night. Anyhow we arrived here about 1:30 and had camp set up pretty quick. We have full hookups, cable and WiFi but there is no cell service here at all, much less one that works with Verizon.
The trip down the Glacier Highway was very scenic with glaciers around every corner. There was one place where you could even see three at once. Bear Glacier was a little further on and this glacier ends in a lake it has created right next to the highway. One of the only glaciers you can drive right up to. The highway is right in a valley and the views are tremendous. It leads to Stewart, BC which connects to Hyder, AK, the only place in southern Alaska you can drive to. Hyder also borders the Tongass national Forest, so we have come full circle from our first stop in Alaska, Ketchikan, to our last, Hyder.
There is a bear observation site just outside Hyder at Fish Creek in the Tongass National Forest. This is where the bears congregate during the salmon spawning season (middle July through August). We went there for a little while Thursday after getting set up but it was hot and no bears. We were able to watch the salmon spawning which is very interesting in itself. The females lay their eggs and the males fertilize them then they both die completing the life cycle that started three years ago in the same spot. It is amazing how they find and fight their way back from the Pacific Ocean to where they were hatched. The salmon that are here now are the Chum and Pink Salmon. The Silver Salmon are expected a little later. We also made reservations to go on a Salmon Glacier tour Saturday.
Saturday we went to Hyder to go on the glacier tour but it had been canceled due to little turn out so we reserved again for Sunday. You normally don't need to take a professional tour but can drive it yourself on a self-guided tour. The road was completely washed out this spring and while they have partially got it back in place they will not allow personal vehicles past that point so that they don't have to interrupt the construction constantly for the cars. They do allow this one bus to go through once a day. Since we couldn't go on the tour we went back out to Fish Creek but no luck again. It seems the bears are usually there only in the early morning or late evening.
Sunday we got up early enough to get to Fish Creek before they opened at 6:00 a.m. As soon as they let us in, the first bear appeared and soon found a salmon to his liking and devoured it. It only took about 15 minutes from start to finish. I took many pictures but the light was so low (it was early and very cloudy, even drizzling at times) that all but one blurred due to the slow shutter speed. I still have included the best of them though I wish they could have been better. We waited around another two hours and still no more bears so we left and came back to the Mothership for breakfast before going on the glacier tour.
The tour was scheduled for noon and we got there at 11:30 as directed but the driver/owner wasn’t sure whether to go or not as the clouds were real low and he was afraid we wouldn't be able to see the glacier. About 45 minutes later he finally left it up to the riders and we decided to go ahead and try it. It was fantastic! The clouds cleared enough for us to see pretty much everything we wanted to and the views were great. We had seen a lot of glaciers this trip but nothing prepared us for the sight of this huge glacier from above. The Salmon Glacier is the 5th largest glacier in North America. It has two toes, the upper and lower. The lower toe extends down the mountain four miles while the upper toe is only two miles long but creates a natural disaster every year during about the middle of July. The upper toe creates an ice dam during the spring which prevents the normal drainage of the glacier and snow melt to go under the glacier and down the mountain. This creates Summit Lake. About half way through July every year this dam finally breaks and the water stampedes down the mountain side increasing the level of the Salmon River several feet and causing quite a bit of earth erosion along the path. This year it was so great it washed out the road as I mentioned earlier. These two toes join the main glacier at the viewpoint they have set up for tourist and goes on up the mountain for another six miles. The main glacier and its toes are about a mile across and over 1,000 feet thick.
Today is Sunday and we were going to go back down to Fish Creek for a while to see if the bears were out but it has been raining all day. Remember me telling you that the Tongass National Forest is a rainforest. Yep, it is and today's and yesterday's weather show it. If it clears off a bit later we may go but I doubt it so I will go ahead and post this stop.
We have changed our plans a little and will go to Terrace, BC tomorrow for a couple of days before going to Hazelton, BC as originally planned. I don’t think we will have cell or WiFi in Terrace so we probably won’t post again until we reach Hazelton where we will have WiFi.