Day 109 - Thursday, July 18 - Milepost 8293 - Birdcount 282 - Hyder, Alaska

(BF's Journal). If I had only one week to spend in Alaska, I’d spend the whole week in the revived ghost town of Hyder and I’d explore the magnificent terrain within twenty miles of its heart. In that week I would see more of Alaska than most tourists see aboard cruise ships, tour buses and RV’s trekking thousands of miles past ports of call and highway mileposts.

I’d see mountains - dramatic, uplifting mountains - snow capped, glacier filled, rugged rocky reddened formations, greened by spruce and pine and aspen, immense and humbling. I’d view blue glaciers - at a distance perched high above me or at water’s edge calving its aged foot into an icy bath and leaving translucent blue icebergs floating on the gray pool or from atop, viewing the snail-paced river of compressed snow crawling down the carved mountain pass like a curving speedway with shavings of brown rocks delineating its passage. I’d gaze at waterfalls - narrow spindly veils growing from the tips of glaciers 2000 ft above me or wide turbulent waters gushing over rocky cliffs or miniature fountains sprouting from forest-hidden wells and spilling pleasingly before me at roadside’s edge. And I’d follow rivers and streams and creeks - tranquil green pools with yellow lily pads barely trembling from the still water’s movement, or salmon creeks, crystal clear, shallow but swiftly flowing and challenging to the spawning reddening fish, or surging boiling rivers, turbulently raging through giant boulders, scary up close but exciting from a distance.

I’d saturate my eyes with the colors of flowers - purple fireweed, white yarrow, blue lupine, yellow daisies and dandelions, and pink wild roses. I’d fish the streams for mighty Chum Salmon or Dolly Varden named after a Charles Dicken’s character. I’d search for mammals from ground hugging Yellow-bellied Marmot to berry picking Black Bear and I’d never get tired of capturing on film the antics of grizzlies, adults and cubs, playfully trying to catch salmon a stone throw’s distance from my lens.I’d bird the marsh for red-headed yellow tanagers, geese swimming with trailing goslings, yellow warblers singing territorial songs and bald eagles screeching from lofty perches. I’d investigate the swallow harbor - lime green sedge and identically colored waters in high tide, muddy flats and dry docked logs in low tide, a ferry connecting me to the outside through a long narrow Portland Canal or a float plane bringing in U.S. mail Mondays and Thursdays only. And I’d amuse myself exploring the rustic Twilight Zone ex-ghost town of Hyder - its muddy streets, ramshackle buildings, primitive facilities and homespun good nature. I’d delight in sharing this frontier setting with wholesome people that love their Spartan trappings as much as the raw environment they call home. And I’d feel at peace with the world, comfortable in its naturalness, separated from unneeded conveniences, slowed to the pace of a woodpecker digging for an insect in a rotting tree or a salmon laying eggs in cool waters or a grizzly lumbering through a stream missing most of the passing unnecessary world swimming by.

(SF's Journal).  Bert would like to stay an extra day because he finds this place the best in our trip. I keep asking why?  If we stay another day I will be bored especially since it is rainy. We compromise and he gets to bird until 10:30 AM before we leave. Why is 10:30 ok to leave when he wants to bird first and too late to leave when he doesn’t?  Oh well I am happy to leave at the more advanced hour whatever the reason. Anyway it rains so much he comes back at 8:30 ready to leave. We first have to dump.  Poor Bert, he does that icky task with nary a complaint even though it is pouring rain.  Hook the car, unhook the electricity, and find the dump in the booming metropolis of Hyder. It is a real dump of a dump. A hand painted sign points us to RV dump but we cannot find it.  Bert stops to reconnoiter the area so we do not get stuck with 55 feet of us facing in the opposite direction we want to go. He makes a tour of the area on foot in the rain but cannot find the dump. I tell him to ask someone. Why can’t otherwise intelligent men think of that logical solution by themselves? Anyway, after asking he again tours the area and comes back and says "This time I found it." We pull forward, turn right, around a building and turn right again. The dump is situated in the middle of a pile of wood between a rusty oil barrel and a large propane tank. That task complete, we travel to Stewart for gas and fill up to the tune of $164.14 (Canadian, but still). On back, past beautiful Bear Glacier and many, many waterfalls cascading in streams and ribbons down the mountain sides. Too bad the view is hindered by the rain. Soon we come to another of the one lane bridges on the Cassiar Highway, always a treat when you are 102 inches wide.  It is like going down our driveway at 55 mph, only with drop-offs 100s of feet down and the possibility of another vehicle meeting you head on.  Since there is no margin of error, I usually close my eyes and am grateful Bert is driving.  Our stop tonight is Ksan Campground in New Hazelton, BC, where we visit the totem museum and walk on the rivers edge.   The campground is a resort compared to recent stays.  Wide grassy areas between sites, electricity, water, dump, and table at each site with a view of the river and I also think a view of the mountains if the clouds would lift.

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