Hyder, Alaska

Hyder 12Our main reason for visiting Hyder, Alaska was to see more bears. There are two salmon runs in Hyder, which is at the head of the Portland Canal, a 90-mile fjord. Salmon come up the ocean to the fjord and up the Salmon River to Fish Creek to spawn. And the bears frequent the creek to feed on the salmon.

Hyder 13Hyder 63The U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game manage a viewing platform that was built over the creek, the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area, that allows visitors to watch the bears safely (for both visitors and bears) as the bears feed on the salmon.

We had initially planned to be in Hyder earlier in the season to catch the end of the salmon run but we took our time further north and got there quite late. But we also wanted to visit Hyder to see the Salmon Glacier, the world’s largest road accessible glacier.

Hyder 9Hyder 3We spent the morning walking around Stewart with Angel. It is quite a charming little town, with restored as well as rustic old buildings, and a number of shops and restaurants. The little grocery store there, Harbor Lights, offers great free Wi-Fi which we of course took advantage of.

We walked Angel over a boardwalk that was built over a large wetlands area, a very nice little walk.

Both Stewart and Hyder (they used to be one town) are surrounded by the coastal mountain range and the Cambria Ice Fields and so are quite scenic.

Hyder 10The forecast for the following day was for rain so we left Island Girl at the Visitor Center and drove to Hyder to check out Fish Creek and the Salmon Glacier before the rain. Hyder is a much smaller town and much more rustic, with few businesses.Hyder 71

But the drive through Hyder to Salmon Glacier is spectacular. The gorgeous Salmon River runs alongside of the town, and some of southeastern Alaska’s largest glaciers are found among the surrounding peaks.

Hyder 62Hyder 64The road crosses into the Tongass National Forest, and then goes by the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area.

Just before reaching the viewing area, we saw a bear running into the forest from the road. This got us excited.

We stopped at the viewing area, bought a pass ($5) and walked along the boardwalks for a bit, but no bears. Lots of dead fish and lots of gulls though.  The smell was pretty overwhelming. We decided to continue our drive to the glacier and return in the late afternoon.

Hyder 70Hyder 67Glacier Highway becomes a gravel road and continues through historic trail and mine sites then crosses the international boundary between Alaska and Canada, marked only by a silver colored cairn and a clear cut of the forest through the mountains. The boundary line is cleared every ten years.

Hyder 60The road then climbs along the side of the valley, with spectacular mountains and glaciers and waterfalls cascading down the opposite side of the road from the fjord. The cloudy weather made the autumn colors, which were beginning, stand out more and the green areas were quite vivid as well. It was a spectacular road (another one!).Hyder 61

Hyder 29Hyder 24As the road approaches Salmon Glacier, it offers two viewpoints. The toe of the glacier and views of bright colored kettle ponds which were formed by ice blocks are visible from the first viewpoint.Hyder 28

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Hyder 33Hyder 37Hyder 25Hyder 40Hyder 41Hyder 42The second viewpoint is the summit viewpoint, with an expansive view of the glacier, the fifth largest in Canada.Hyder 49

Hyder 45Just as we thought there were not any more beautiful sights to see in the area, here we were on this amazing drive by this enormous glacier.Hyder 43

Hyder 53Hyder 50Hyder 46Hyder 54

Hyder 58Hyder 59The colors, shapes and textures within the glacier are astounding. We spent a long time at each of the viewing areas admiring nature’s work of art.

As we were driving back, we noticed a nice boondocking spot by the river. We had discovered that we could charge our batteries by running the engine and of course we could get 110 power by running the generator. Not ideal, but workable and we loved the idea of being by the river, with lots of eagles flying about and also free camping!

We stopped at the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area again but did not see any bear.  Darn.

Hyder 65Hyder 66Going from Hyder back to Stewart we spoke with the Canada customs officer to ask about bringing Island Girl back across the border once we left Hyder. We still had a lot of produce, all purchased in Canada, but wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be confiscated. We even had a receipt for most of it. He told us it would be no problem.

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Hyder 77So we picked up Island Girl in Stewart and brought her to Hyder to the boondocking spot. Of course, driving into Hyder was fine since there is no customs stop on the way in.

We settled in by the beautiful river and spent two nights there. The next day was quite rainy so we just relaxed and Hector ran out a few times to try to capture some more eagle images.

But the weather was just terrible so we mostly stayed inside with our lovely and very wet view of the river and the surrounding mountains.

Hyder 17Hyder 22The next day, we walked around the little town of Hyder, and visited the two general stores. The first one as you go into the town is mostly a souvenir shop and has a very helpful proprietor. The second one is mostly a fishing and hunting store that smells like 50 people smoked cigarettes there recently. A really rustic spot.Hyder 21Hyder 20Hyder 14

There is no cell signal in Hyder or anywhere for many miles, but we did find Wi-Fi at the library. A bonus was that we could access the Wi-Fi from the parking lot even when the library was closed. So we did a little catching up.

Hyder 79We left our lovely boondocking spot and decided not to hook up until Stewart since we planned to get fuel and dump in the town. I was following Island Girl in the car and decided to take a quick detour to check out an RV park on the side street.

2015-09-11 at 12-45-21As I approached the customs area to cross back to Stewart, I saw that Island Girl was stopped. I drove on the other lane past Island Girl, and the officer asked me if I was with the RV. She then let me know that the car and the RV were going to be searched. Which was odd since we drove through twice in the car and all they ever asked for were our passports.

Hyder 19The two customs officers then asked me to get out of the car while they searched. We have a storage bin where we carry rain gear, extra layers for cold and some other stuff and they proceeded to take everything out and search. I was a bit apprehensive because we have bear spray in there, which sometimes is considered a weapon but there was no issue. They completed the search and moved on to Island Girl.

2015-09-11 at 12-45-402015-09-11 at 12-58-24They asked Hector to get out of the rig and of course he brought Angel along. So there we were standing by the tiny customs hut under the overhang in the rain. A couple of folks who were on a motorcycle and whom we had met earlier came over to the overhang while they waited in line. The line of cars grew. Keep in mind that this is a tiny town and there is almost never a line here. And there we were facing all of the cars that were waiting.

Then the customs ladies asked Hector to come aboard and asked him some questions. They were most concerned about hidden weapons. They asked several times in different ways about weapons and “what we did for personal protection”. Interestingly, Hector told them he would be happy to open the slides if they wanted him to, and they said no. So they missed two cabinets and five drawers.

Next thing I know Hector comes out of the RV with one of the ladies and goes to the basement and gets the tool box. They board again with the tool box. Now I am really confused. I of course am still worrying that they will confiscate all of our produce.

Hyder 18The search lasted about 30 minutes and they finally came out. The tool box was to undo a screw that they thought was a hidden cabinet, it was not.

They did not take anything and told us we were free to go. Our most bizarre experience in three years of crossing the border to and from Canada. I will say this, they put everything back just like they found it and were very nice and courteous (quite talkative too) throughout the search.

Hyder 80Angel and Hector boarded Island Girl and I got back in the car. We drove to Stewart where Hector filled up at one of those funky northern fuel pumps, dumped, and filled with water.

Then we hooked back up and left the Alaska part of our summer behind!

Note: Since we are still catching up on posts, we want to let our readers know that Island Girl’s issue was ultimately not a very big deal (more details later).

~ BrendaHyder 48

12 thoughts on “Hyder, Alaska

  1. So sorry you had such gloomy weather in such an incredibly beautiful spot. Gives you a good reason to return some day, there is nothing like a brilliant blue sky day atop Salmon Glacier. Wish I had thought about staying at your great boon docking spot.
    Stay in touch!

    • That’s okay, it was still quite beautiful. But your photos do show us the possibilities with a clear blue sky. The boon docking spot was really great, we weren’t quite sure it was legal, but were able to stay for two nights without issue. We are headed to the Skagit River area tomorrow and thinking of your eagle images, but we know it’s too early yet. We will definitely stay in touch.

  2. I guess you two just have those kinda faces that makes them want to check out Island Girl. Glad the experience passed with no problems. I was surprised at the size of the glacier. Bigger than I expected. Thanks!

    • Not really, I think the senior officer was teaching the ropes to the junior lady, and she probably thought we would be easygoing (as we were). It’s a weird experience to have people go through all your things like that though. Had to happen sometime, I guess. It was a beautiful glacier.

  3. Hector can take the gloomiest weather and still produce some of the loveliest images. I have always thought that you two look a bit like gun runners (haha). 😉

    • Yes he can! That was the most surreal experience, and the funny thing is I was so worried about our produce, I was expecting them to come out carrying all of our vegetables and fruit! lol.

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