Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Bears, Smart; People, Not So Much

Bears rule in Hyder AK. They fish for salmon in the river, they forage along the roads, and they are master thieves when it comes to garbage cans.

We were in Hyder for three days, during which it rained every day. Days one and two were showers; day three was an unending downpour that extended all through the night. Our trip to see the bears feeding on salmon was during a relative dry spell. The next morning, we were drinking our coffee and watching the rain from our front-row seats behind the windshield, when two bears meandered into the campground and helped themselves to the trash. They had been doing this thievery for a while -- they walked directly to the trash bin, knew exactly how to get in, and one stood guard while the other tore through bags of goodies:

On the day we left this rain-soaked bearidise, standing water was everywhere. It had rained constantly all night, and the gravel streets were flooded, the water having no where to go.
The town of Hyder sits on the end of Route 37A, a spur of Route 37 that winds through a valley and canyon to connect Stewart, BC and Hyder AK with the rest of the world (air flights to Ketchikan also happen if the weather is good, which it often isn't). Stewart is the "big town" of the two, and once you pass through Stewart the road only leads to the Canada/US border and Hyder. Hyder has 100 residents, a bar, a couple of general stores, a restaurant, several gift shops, and one RV park. It gets its money from two sources: a water bottling plant and tourism. The buildings are old and saggy, and the roads are pot-holed and washboardy.

There is no American customs at the border (there is no where to go once you reach Hyder), but there is a Canadian customs, in the center of the photo:

Note the over-the-road sign that says, "The Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska." This is the sign you see as you are leaving Hyder.
"Welcome to Hyder, Alaska" is on the other side (note the raindrops on the windshield -- of course it was raining as we came in!)

We crossed into Canada (at Stewart) without incident. The rain was still falling, and the amount of water in the river along the road was much higher than it had been when we came in. What had been a bubbly stream was now a raging torrent:

There had been several waterfalls along the way, which were now extremely full of water and it was all rushing towards the river which was rapidly filling. We traveled this stretch in the early morning; we found out later that day the road was closed in both directions due to flooding. 24 hours later, it is still closed. We got out just in time -- there are no alternate routes out of Hyder!

On our way out, we came upon 2 small RVs stopped in the middle of the road, one going our way and the other going the opposite way. It was a "bear jam" -- a bear by the side of the road and assorted gawkers. Having already seen a lot of bears this trip, we threaded our way through the stopped vehicles, and when we got opposite the bear found the vehicle's humans doing really stupid things. The woman from the first vehicle had her back turned to the bear so she could get a photo of herself with the bear in the background while, at the same time, the two guys from the second vehicle were throwing rocks at it so it would stop eating and look at them (yes, we did yell at them to stop).

The bears here do what they do very well. The humans? Not so much.


Laurie and Odel said...

Rain. Endless rain. Been there, done that. Thanks for reminding me of what it feels like. Ugh.

Sharon Del Rosario said...

Glad you got out of Hyder in the nick of time. I can't believe the stupidity of tourists who think bears outside of zoos are tame!