When we left our boondocking spot at Lower Gnat lake, we were headed for the Meziadin Lake Provincial Park. This, we thought, would be our return trip-equivalent of Muncho Lake, where we spent four beautiful days on our trip north in May. It was a place we could slow down, rest and enjoy the gorgeous views. Lake Meziadin would also be our basecamp for visiting Bear Glacier, Stewart, Hyder and the Salmon Glacier.
But as we drove ever closer, I began to have second thoughts. We had anticipated multiple trips into Stewart/Hyder, but after three long days of driving, the reality of a 120 km round-trip drive each time started to set in and it didn't sound at all relaxing! When I mentioned to Steven that I thought we would enjoy the area more if we were staying closer, he agreed! That's when I mentioned how great it would be to have FHUs. (You're on to my game now, right?) We'd been boondocking for quite a few days and I was more than ready. And he agreed! Yipee!
But then we did a little research. Sure, having full hook-ups close to all the sites is a fantastic idea, until you consider the price for what you actually get. Ugh. I've mentioned before how averse we've become to paying exorbitant prices for camping spots. The more we boondock, the less inclined we are to fork over the money for something mediocre. And that's pretty much what we found in Stewart and Hyder.
Plan B was a Stewart city park, the Rainey Creek Campground. It was reasonably priced, but it offered only electric. No water, no sewer. The other issue with this little place is that it is located in a primordial forest, right in town! So while it was a great location for sightseeing in Stewart & Hyder, nothing depresses me more than being in a campground so dark and damp that I need lights on in the daytime. Double ugh.
Our primordial campsite at Rainey Creek. It was fairly sketchy getting in there, too.
Sometimes you just have to give in and let go and that's what I did. I found what I thought was the sunniest spot in all of Rainey Creek Campground and by sunny I mean dark and depressing. But never mind that, we had glaciers and bears and a ton of quirky stuff to see. Then we had two days of rain. Have y'all ever seen the movie Insomnia with Al Pacino? It was partially filmed in Stewart/Hyder and Pacino's character went crazy here. So, yeah.
In spite of all that, we really did enjoy visiting the area. The drive from the Cassiar Highway to the small communities of Stewart, B.C and Hyder, AK is among the prettiest we'd seen all summer. The scenery is reminiscent of that on the way from Glennallen to Valdez, towering, lush mountains with multiple waterfalls spilling hundreds of feet over the edge. And then we saw Bear Glacier. Wow!
Bear Glacier, the first of the epic views on Highway 37A to Stewart.
From all that I had read about Stewart and Hyder, they were described as dying little communities. I totally disagree. We rolled into Stewart to find well cared-for homes with lush, green lawns, beautiful flowers, clean streets, friendly folks and all the amenities one might need while visiting. Hyder is a little more on the dilapidated side, but their population has grown to include enough kids that the high school reopened. Prior to this, the kids went to school in Stewart.
Hyder’s post office! How cute is this place?
It's an odd arrangement with these two towns, one being in Canada, the other in Alaska. There is no border check going into Alaska (Hyder), but passports are required to re-enter Canada (Stewart). Recently, The New York Times wrote a fun article about these two communities and it is well-worth a read.
Aside from the general quirkiness of the two communities, most people come here for two reasons: bears and glaciers. More specifically, Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site and the Salmon Glacier. I think people come to Fish Creek expecting to see the quintessential Alaskan scene with bears standing their ground in the middle of the rushing creek, swiping at the feisty salmon as they make their way upstream to spawn. No, this isn't like that. You're likely to see a bear if you have loads of patience and are prepared to sit around at the crack of dawn or late evening and wait, maybe for hours. Personally, I think it's the same three or four bears that show up on occasion, as the regulars out on the boardwalk have names for them all. For my money, you have a better chance of seeing a bear while driving there than at the site. That said, if you've never seen a creek full of spawning, dead and dying salmon, it's worth the trip just to see that spectacle.
Rules are pretty strict about staying within fenced-off areas for obvious reasons.
And you might as well stop there, because it's on the way to the Salmon Glacier, which is quite frankly the most spectacular glacier we saw during our entire trip. It is one of the few glaciers you can drive right up to, get out of your car and see it spread out before you in all it's magnificent glory. Simply stunning!
We both went on the last day to get our new banner shot. Here we are waiting for the rising sun to light us up!
There is one more "must-do" stop in Hyder and that is The Bus, a fabulous little eatery run by Diana and her family. We sat outside with a couple from Germany and enjoyed their company and a glass of wine while waiting for our halibut fish & chips. If you've come this far and have somehow not managed to fill your freezer with freshly caught halibut, Diana sells what her husband catches (and that she doesn't use at The Bus) filleted, cryo-packed and frozen for a mere $18 per pound (as of this writing). That, my friends, is a hell of a deal!
The food was delicious!
We spent four days in Stewart/Hyder waiting out the rain so we could see the Salmon Glacier. But if the weather is cooperating, I'd say you can do it all in three. So even though I really did enjoy myself, when Departure Day rolled around I was more than ready to hit the road!
We thought we would avoid any damage to our rig but not so. Just outside Prince George a little red corvette flew by us and kicked up a rock. We thought it would be an easy fix, but sadly, it is not even fixable. Drat!
We knew at this point our inner lemmings had taken over, that is, go until we fall off a cliff or reach Bellingham, whichever comes first. While plans called for a slow meander back to the border, we knew in our hearts we were about to make a beeline for Washington, and that's exactly what we did. After a quick overnight in the Safeway parking lot in Smithers, and another at the Williams Lake Visitor's Center, we crossed back into the U.S. with no problems and enjoyed dinner with Zac that evening in Bellingham. It was great to be home!
NEXT UP: Fall plans!