If we are not going to make Alaska-the-State, then at least we will skip over the fence and go to Hyder. From the Cassiar Highway, linking Terrace BC to the Yukon, you can access Alaska — but don’t blink ‘cause it is a tiny access. About 300 miles
North of Terrace, you turn west on Highway 37 and ride a spectacular 40 miles into Stewart: a windy road bordered by glaciers with tongues that descend low into the valley. Even with our everlasting rain predicament, we didn’t fail to be stunned by the beauty of the landscape. You eventually get into Stewart, a tiny town with a couple of campgrounds, which we investigated
before we did anything else. The first one didn’t have a single site that didn’t look like a pond. Not ideal. We might as well START with a dry spot! The second one had a slightly elevated area to which we took a bee-line and set up our tent before even registering and… before the next storm. It came and didn’t disappoint us in violence, however this time we had an awesome addition to our site. I’d even go as far as calling it “glamping” (=glamorous camping): our site had a wooden structure next to it, large enough to host two picnic tables, both our bikes and a (somewhat) protected laundry line to dry gear. We have discovered that even in the worst of downpours, the wind will dry just about anything if you can figure out a way to hang it outside under a tarp.
Once our little abode was established, we rode the 10 miles to the US border and entered Alaska for the afternoon. Hyder is a not a village – in Wikipedia it is called Alaska’s easternmost “census-designated place” or CDP, with a population of 87. They forgot to mention the nine local bears, not kidding. Hyder’s boom years were the 1920s, when the Riverside Mine on the U.S. side extracted gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, and tungsten. Two highlights for us: the Seafood Restaurant in the school bus and the Bear Observatory.
Last time I was in here, the bus door was taped as one of the resident bears had broken it the night before and helped himself to fridge. This time, a bear walked by as we were enjoying our lunch. Had he looked at me menacingly I certainly would have happily given him my burger but he kept on strolling, checking out the tourists, the bikes, and lingered by some shrubs. A few minutes later, the restaurant owner was alerted to the fact that the bear had made his way to her mother’s house. She excused herself and left. There was no denying that her reason was valid. About ten minutes later we heard a long rifle shot. She came back and never said a word about the bear again. We didn’t ask, we just ate what she served us.
The Bear Observatory is a long elevated wooden platform from which you can look at bears from a very short distance if they choose to grace you with their presence. Last time we saw many and among which, a mom with a cub. This time we didn’t. Instead, they chose to play pinball on the road, using the moving traffic as their targets. I mean, seriously – in five miles, at least four bears crossed just in front of our wheels, sometimes taking a break and sitting in the middle of the road watching us approach. That is … IF we were still approaching. In most cases, I stopped but kept my engine on. At least this way I felt that I was ready!