The Beautiful Journey To Stewart British Columbia and Hyder Alaska

On this jaunt up to Alaska, I decided I’d take a slightly different route than I did last time. Instead of going straight up the Alaska Highway starting at Dawson Creek, I thought I’d veer off to the left and go up the Stewart-Cassiar Highway instead. It’s Hwy 37 and 37A, two little roads that lead to very big beauty! I had no idea what I’d find in either of these places. I vaguely remember seeing some mention of Hyder and bears–that was all the enticement I needed. I had no idea how beautiful this area was though. I spent a night in Smithers, which I just found amusing becuase every time I said it, I said it in Mr. Burns’ voice. The next morning I set out for Stewart B.C.

Last year I went from Calgary to Dawson Creek via Jasper. This year I went from Calgary to Jasper again, but hung a left and went to Prince George instead of heading up Hwy 97 North, I took Hwy 16 West. I was not at all impressed with Prince George!  It was depressed and industrial. Even the Ramada where I stayed right downtown had seen better days, in fact thats true about most of Prince George. I had a very average meal at a very average restaurant and the next morning before I left I strolled around a very average farmers market. However I’ve learned you can always be happy for the little things whilst on the road. First thing to be happy about; my car was still there in the morning, I’d left it the night before in an incredibly sketchy parking garage. It was free parking from the hotel, very few cars parked in the garage and hotel guests had to park on level 4.  It did not make for a comfortable night for my car I’m sure!  The second thing that made me very happy, there was a Starbucks in the hotel lobby.

It all got better at Smithers, not a lot better but definitely better. My hotel was decent and the meal was slightly above average. Smithers also had a very sweet little donwtown area. My favorite conversation of the day was when I asked the woman at the hotel desk where the fires were (it was very smokey in town) She replied “Siberia” and I said ” Oh, where’s that”?  She looked at me like a was a moron and said “Umm Russia” “Ohhh that Siberia”, there are lots of little towns named the same thing as other places, how was I supposed to know it wasn’t the oddly named Canadian town of Siberia. I still find it hard to believe that fires in Siberia were causing smoke problems that far away, but apparently they were.

The road from Smithers to Stewart was spectacular and once I go there it got even better. Stewart was a once booming mining town in the early 1900’s with some 10,000 residents. Like so many mining towns out west its heyday was short-lived. Today Stewart boasts a year round population of approximatley 550 residents which is huge compared to Hyder that has 80 or so. They’re small places with a lot of very rich history, not to mention an abundance of bears!

Here’s a link for more information on these two fantastic places. Why write it all over again when someone has already done a very nice job. Stewart/Hyder History

Enough description, lets take a look at these awesome towns, stuck in time and my old friends “the bears”

First Alaska sign of the journey Northward

This isn’t the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last time I post one of these beautiful reflection pictures. I absolutely love them!

The breathtaking scenery along Hwy 37A towards Stewart

The breathtaking scenery along Hwy 37A towards Stewart

The road less traveled!

My first bear sighting

Driving along the highway, minding my own business and boom, a glacier

The King Edward Hotel, my home in Stewart for 3 nights, a lot of local “charm”

This is the Canadian border crossing to get back into British Columbia. I’m on the Hyder, Alaska side. There is no U.S. customs, but the locals say they are thinking of putting one there. Don’t want the Canadian bears sneaking into the country illegally, you betcha.

A few shots of Hyder

Bring on the bears–first up the grizzlies

Now up, the black bears (PLEASE NOTE:While I personally don’t think it makes them any less interesting to watch these blacks are “Dump Bears” which means, yes they eat most of their food out of the town garbage dump in Hyder. Stewart thinks this is very ghetto of them. Why is that you ask? Well because most towns that have dumps in bear country have an electric fence around them. Since Hyder is about 5 minutes away from being a ghost town, they don’t really seem to have the funds to do this. I say hooray to lack of funding, some of the best bear viewing ever.  There was one point I was watching 9 bears and 5 of them were really cute little cubs. Here’s the sad part of this, when winter approaches and the dump is frozen and there’s not a lot of food in it, the bears will most likely come into town tipping over garbage cans and causing problems. What do you think happens to bears in a remote Alaskan town who cause lots of problems–correct they get shot. I’m guessing they may not make it through the winter, however now that I’m mulling this over there were some adults at the dump as well so maybe they will. Personally, I love these dump bears!

The other very unexpected but fantastic thing I discovered in this area was the 23 mile drive out to Salmon Glacier. It’s an active mining road, in very bad condition with lots and lots of very large trucks driving along it, but the scenery was fantastic and the glacier itself, one of the largest in North America was incredible to see. I was also very lucky that the weather was near perfect and all of the glacier was visible.

Lots of comforting signs along the road!

I’m going to conclude this post with two last shots and this thought: There is no place in North America that I know of other than rural Canada and Alaska where you get this much space, this much beauty and this kind of access to bears ( and other wildlife)

It makes people very happy and you get to meet a lot of characters, especially when you are watching the wildlife. The Beararazzi camp out most of the day waiting for another sighting. Most of them come back year after year and there’s definitely a hierarchy among them.

The hard core beararazzi midday waiting for another glimpse. I stopped on the way back from the glacier to see if anything was going on. Most people are there early morning and end of day (including me) these folks stay most of the day and don’t mess with their spot!

My two favorites who I spoke to the most were Marguerita and her husband James. He was a great guy and both he and his wife were wonderful photographers. Marguerita was like a little nugget of sunshine, it was pretty much impossible not to smile or laugh while you were talking to her, she had such great energy!

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3 Responses to The Beautiful Journey To Stewart British Columbia and Hyder Alaska

  1. james kissinger October 23, 2012 at 2:44 am #

    Hi Marc

    We finally catch up to you and bless you for this little picture.
    I am just starting to read your blog and had to look first at Hyder. After we left Hyder we spent almost four weeks on the Dempster mostly near the Yukon/NWT border and found the poster bears of the year, mother and cub. Another good spot for bears was Haines and on our way back be got some shots of the Kermodi 13.5 km west of Kitwanga. Made it back home to Victoria just before Canada Thanks Giving and managed to have turkey with some friends, Brothers and Daughter. We were only home for ten days and had to leave for Taipei as Margarita’s Father is ill. It will be Christmas before we know it. Yesterday we bought a rocket stick for the computer so I can be connected while we are here. My Mandarin almost zilch so I have time to spend on the computer.

    Good to have met you.

    James & Margarita

  2. halcyonhighway October 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    So good to have met you and Margarita as well. I was talking to my new friend Matt who I met on the ferry coming back from Dutch Harbor about you guys and our bear viewing. We both agreed that sometimes you meet people on the road spend a few hours with them and may never see them again, but the encounter was quite memorable and part of the tapestry of your journey. Enjoy Tapei and please send my regards to Margarita and my wishes for a speedy recovery for her father.

  3. Ken November 9, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    Bears hibernate in the winter. They won’t be out looking for food.

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