Putting on all my layers in the morning felt like dressing for battle. Today, I would touch Alaskan soil, albeit in the tiny tourist town of Hyder, AK. I had a low mileage day ahead of me, to give myself time to explore Kispiox again and see how far I got up to Salmon Glacier.
The totems were a convenient place to pause and properly tighten down my mirror. It had come loose when a drunk woman used it as an assist to take selfies on my bike a few nights back, and I kept putting it off. Ah well.
As expected, the dominant vegetable for days had become the noble french fry. Canadians had the best condiment for them as well: GRAVY. It might be my favorite, after malt vinegar. And maybe curry sauce. Okay, top three.
It was hard to slow down to eat, because I was excited to get to Alaska!
Contrasting the ancient totems was a small church and bell tower across the road, which I hadn’t paid much attention to at the time. St Paul’s Anglican Church was founded as a mission station in 1882. It’s slightly puzzling how little information I could find, but it seems the Gitxsan Nation had converted to Christianity, encouraged by British settlers. Like the church and totems, the cultures existed side-by-side, even into present day.
I got the impression that First Nations that ended up being in Canada seem to have been treated with more respect than many of the native people in what became the United States. Maybe the grass just seems greener on the side with affordable healthcare. I stand with Wednesday Addams in Addams Family Thankgsiving.
I enjoyed the signs for GAS BAR up here, instead of gas station. Every refuel makes me feel like I’m rolling up to a cocktail bar, and when an attendant asks, “What’ll you have?” I say “Premium, please,” as if I were ordering a Manhattan. On the other hand, a place that does sell alcohol is called a Cold Beer And Wine Store. Always in that order.
I’d actually visited Hyder before, years ago on an inner passage cruise with my parents. The southernmost town of Alaska was sustained by tourism, capitalizing on its ghost town roots. This early in the season though, it was truly deserted. Glacier Inn was only open Wed-Sun 2-8. The Bus was freshly power washed but wouldn’t open until the last week of May. The only place semi-open was the campground, and they didn’t have hot water in their showers yet, or wifi. They actually recommended staying in Stewart, which was a ‘real town.’
I’d heard the road to Salmon Glacier viewpoint was still snowed in, but told myself I’d ride up until snow made it impassable. The dirt itself was hard-packed and not difficult for riding, in spite of the many signs warning otherwise. It was a beautiful road, with views, waterfalls, and avalanche zones.
Eventually, the road began to climb and temperatures dropped. Old snow clung to corners.
My pack seemed to be holding well, until my front gas bottle rattled out from under the bungee net and I ran over it. I managed to retrieve it before it rolled off a cliff, with just a small dent in the side. It gets a carabiner now.
On the way back to Stewart to camp, the border officer asked me whether I had bear spray. I’d heard it was illegal to carry it across borders so had held off purchasing any until I was farther along, figuring that playing my ukulele at camp would be enough of a deterrent. This seemed to alarm the officer. She recommended at least getting a ‘bear pen’ – a small, firecracker that’s supposed to scare them away.
I saw seven bears that day, including a mother with two cubs. The campground in town assured me that even though their camp was named Bear River RV Park, they didn’t come down this far.
They had glacier-fed water too, mmm.
I did worry a bit for my air plant getting too cold at night. George at the Rangeland, ever resourceful, suggested putting a plastic bag over it. A dime bag would have been perfect, but I made do with what I had:
That was it. Three years and eleven days since departure, scoot and I touched down on 49 U.S. states, Baja Mexico, and 4 Canadian provinces. 65k on the clock.