Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Skagway to Hyder

When we left Skagway we headed for our last Alaska stop in tiny Hyder to see the bears (next post).  Hyder, Skagway and Haines are the only Southeastern Alaska towns you can drive to and they are all long drives, part of which are through Canada.  This trip was a 700 mile, three day drive through Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon, back into BC and finally into Hyder.  The trip started with a climb over White Pass, the same pass we went to on the train excursion (last post).  Part of the road had an 11% grade, some of the steepest we have ever had to climb. Opus did well and we were to the top in no time.  The first 100 miles of day one was over roads we had not traveled before.  The last 190 miles was retracing a section of the Alaska Highway we had used going northbound. Days two and three where down the Cassiar through BC and the spur road into Hyder.
Once we were over the pass above Skagway we drove along the White Pass & Yukon Route through the mountains and along many lakes.  You can see the railroad tracks.
More beautiful mountains.
Even though there are many old mines in the area the water in the lakes and streams is still very clear.
The color of the water is beautiful.  On the first night we stayed in Bear Creek, a very nice Yukon Territory Campground.
Really, south to Alaska.  On day two we headed down the Cassiar through British Columbia to get to Hyder, over 400 miles away.
This is a recent burn area because it was not listed in our two year old Mileposts.  The fireweed is always the first flower to bloom after a fire.
While there was not a lot of traffic on this road there were a few trucks because this is the shortest way north.  This route was considered for the Alaska Highway, but officials feared it was too close to the coast and vulnerable to Japanese attack so the route from Dawson Creek was used.
We did see a few black bears along the way, but they were just a warm up for the main event, the bears of  Hyder (next post).
Several sections of the road were gravel and very narrow.  The fact that it was raining made for some slow driving.  I think the rain caused another problem as well.  Not long after fueling up, the H2O in fuel light came on.  This had happened on the way north, but it happened as we were pulling into a campground through a couple of puddles and the next morning the light was out.  I had the fuel filter changed as a precaution.  This time we were at least 200 miles from any possible service and had no cell phone coverage.  Since Opus seemed to be running fine we pressed on, but stayed in an RV park to have Internet, rather than along the road as we had planned, so I could do some checking.  Turns out, others have had the same problem when it rains and the sensor gets wet.  The next morning even though the light was still on Opus started right up and ran just fine. After 150 miles and drier roads the light went out and has not come back on.  We sure are happy it was not a major issue in the middle of no where.
We did the mandatory stop at Jade City.  There are several jade mines in the area and this place has everything jade, from huge blocks of jade to finished jewelry.  
Even though the Cassiar is the most recent highway built to the North Country, being completed in 1976, there are still many wooden bridges.  This is the only one lane bridge we had to cross, but there were several that  I would only consider two lane for motorcycles.  Fortunately, we did not meet any big rigs on these. 
After a night in the campground, when we were getting ready to pull out we saw Pat and Larry, who we met in Nilnilchik. They had pulled in late the evening before.  Since they were also headed to Hyder, we now had someone who could go for help if the H2O in fuel light issue had not worked out.  Thankfully, that was not necessary.  We spent several hours in Hyder watching the bears together (once again the next post). 
After a few miles of day two on the Cassiar the scenery got better, the road got wider and smoother and those yellow and white lines made the driving much easier.  The skies were clear and the mountains were beautiful.
The last 40 miles to Hyder is on a spur road through a long glacial canyon with many beautiful hanging glaciers and waterfalls.
Bear Glacier is one that still comes all the way down to the lake. 
Welcome to Hyder, population 100 happy people.  There is not much in Hyder, a couple of bars, an inn, a couple gift shops, a small market and a couple of campgrounds.  We chose Camp Run-A-Muck because it is only three miles from the bear viewing area (next entry).
As soon as we were set up we headed out to see the bears, (next post).  Look who was there, Bjorn and Britta, the couple from Germany who we met in Haines.  We had a fun time watching the bears together (next post) for two days.
Between bear watchings (next blog) we watched the birds.  The mother, top right was gathering berries and taking them to her chicks, very neat. 
A must see if you go to Hyder to see the bears (next entry) is the drive up to Salmon Glacier.  This is the largest glacier in Canada and the view from above is something that you rarely get to see without a long hike.
Hyder claims to be the Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska and we even found this happy, friendly ghost on the side of the mountain near Salmon Glacier.  Hyder is well worth the drive and I have not even posted any bear pictures yet! Stay tuned, you must see the next post.

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