June 28 – July 1, 2022.
We finally felt like we were making headway to Alaska after we left Vancouver Island and disembarked from the BC Ferry. But of course, we still couldn’t resist taking a few detours along the route. Instead of heading straight to the Cassier Highway that would take us north to the Alaska Highway and then west to Alaska, we hung a left at the Nisga’a Highway to visit the Nisg̱a’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park.
Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
This park protects a landscape created by a lava flow and honors the Nisga’a First Nations People. Unfortunately, the visitor center was closed while we were there so we didn’t learn anything about the Nisga’a. But we did check out all the hiking trails through the lava beds. The source of the flow was the eruption of the Tseax Cone about 250 years ago. The Cone is only accessible by guided tour, but once again since the visitor center was closed we were unable to join a tour.
Another Detour, the Glacier Highway
After leaving the Lava Beds we finally met up with the Cassier Highway but we weren’t on it long before we took another detour and hung another left onto the Glacier Highway. We were off to visit the towns of Stewart, BC, and Hyder, Alaska, and a few glaciers.
Our first stop was Bear Glacier right on the Glacier Highway.
Hyder, AK & Salmon Glacier
After a night’s rest, we were on to another mass of ice, Salmon Glacier. To get to this one you have to first travel through the small town of Stewart, British Columbia, 38 miles at the end of the Glacier Highway, and cross into Alaska to the even smaller town of Hyder.
Hyder is totally isolated from the rest of Alaska. The only way to get to Hyder from another town in Alaska is to drive many, many hundreds of miles through Canada first, or take a boat to Canada and drive a few hundred-plus miles through British Columbia. There is no border patrol going into Hyder, only returning to Canada.
Like the glaciers, Hyder’s population is receding. Different internet sources list it as either 40 or 12. We only met one of the dozen or 40 Hyder denizens, the librarian. He was a very friendly and helpful guy who so enjoyed the irony of an internet password (I don’t remember what it was) for a library being misspelled that he decided not to correct it.
The Hyder librarian gave us the scoop on what we might encounter on the 20 miles of road to the glacier. First was the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site run by the National Forest Service. During salmon season one must buy a $5 ticket in advance to stroll the boardwalk where you can see bears fishing in the stream below. But the season hadn’t started yet, so there was no salmon, no bears, and no charge to stop and gaze at the stream. After the Observation Site, we would continue up the road passing ponds and amazing scenery before crossing back into British Columbia, Canada. No border patrol at this crossing (or anything else), although there was supposed to be some sort of marker (but we didn’t see it). The librarian told us the road was supposed to be clear of snow but might still be a rough drive.
Stewart, BC & Canada Day
Stewart, British Columbia is super cute with quaint-looking stores and hotels, a nice park, and a lovely boardwalk through an estuary.
And on our third day in the area, we lucked out and got to experience Canada Day in this isolated little Canadian town. Canada Day is celebrated on July 1. It commemorates the union of three British North American colonies into the Canada that we know today. Since Canada Day is so close to the date of US independence day and Hyder and Stewart are so close to each other, the Canadians and Americans here have turned the separate holidays into a four-day holiday that they celebrate together. On July 1, 2, & 3 they celebrate in Stewart, and then on the fourth, they take the party over to Hyder.
We only stayed for the July 1 celebration (since we were still trying to get to Alaska sometime before the end of the summer).
There was a parade that mostly consisted of heavy machinery. And after that, we watched a demonstration by the volunteer fire department on how to free a person from a wrecked vehicle. It was all quite fun, especially at the end of the vehicle deconstructing demonstration when the crowd requested an encore and the fire department team took off the roof of the vehicle.
Next time, we finally make it to the Alaska Highway – but not quite to Alaska yet!