Walk to Alaska

Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
Trip End Jun 23, 2010

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Tuesday, May 11, 2010


It was Des's birthday today, and we decided to make it a very special day, as he was turning sixty. Wow, what a milestone. He has done so much in his life, he deserved to have a memorable 60th birthday. Being in Canada was already a treat, but we could do more.

This country just keeps on keeping on. Riding round the roads of Canada is so spectacular, around every bend there’s another magnificent view, and I’ll bet it’s just as nice in winter. We had a couple of sections of gravel road, but they were only short and quite manageable. There are signs warning of changing conditions and little flags at the side of the road if there is a ditch or area to be patched. We do have to be very vigilant for the wildlife though.

I was riding over a rise and when I came to the top, there was a black bear in the centre of the road. We startled each other I think, because the bear stood there in the middle of the road for a moment, I held my arm up high in the air to warn Des behind me to slow down. The bear started to lope away, building up speed as he got to the egde of the road. He was amazingly agile for such a big chubby looking animal. It was a real adrenalin rush for me and I forgot to pick up my camera to take a picture. The bear got to the woods and disappeared, while I had the biggest smile on my face and felt so excited to see this wonderful creature. We rode through the area of Bear Glacier, it was unbelievably beautiful.

Later we saw two more black bears, and that was a thrill too, but not the same as seeing the first one, so close and for a good while. But each time, by the time we stopped the bikes to take a picture, the bears were gone.

Lou and Lynn were a way behind us, but we met for morning tea in a rest area. Lou had a huge grin on his face, he looked like the cat who’d licked the cream!

"What’s your caper" I asked when he pulled up.

“Did you see it?” he questioned.

“See what?” I asked

“The black bear, just up the road, a big black bear.”

“Yes, we saw it, but did you get the picture?”

“Yeah, of course I did.”

Fantastic.  Lou had captured that wonderful experience on a photo. It was a very exciting morning tea break as we all chatted about our experiences during the ride that morning.

We hopped on our bikes again and headed off, wondering how many bears we would see in the afternoon. It was a very beautiful ride through to our lunch stop, where we again caught up with each other to share a meal. I asked Lynn if they had seen any wild animals “Oh, ask Lou” she said.

“Why, what happened?” I asked.

Lynn said “We stopped for a coyote at the side of the road, Lou pulled up to take a picture of it and the coyote turned and ran after him.”

I laughed and teased Lou about it later, he said “It’s OK, I got you a picture for your Travelpod, but the second one is a bit blurry!” We killed ourselves laughing. We were all on a bit of a high from the excitement of the day and decided we might stay on an extra day in the next town we were going to check into, Stewart.

We fueled up at the only fuel station in Stewart and a local chap who was at the station, told us there was a grizzly sow and her two cubs just down the road. He said, “If you head on down that way, you might see 'em.” Mmmm, no thanks, not on the bike and not on foot either.

The King Edward Motel, in Stewart, which Dale (who shared a home cooked meal with us in Prince George), recommended to us, was reasonably priced and the rooms were a generous size. Best of all, we could see a glacier from our window. All the mountains around the town were visible from our bedroom, it was spectacular and we were glad we determined to stay and extra day. It was crisp and cool, but the sun was shining.

Because we had checked in by three o’clock, we decided to walk to Alaska. Can you believe it, you can walk to Alaska from Stewart? (The opposite direction to the grizzly sow and cubs!) The locals said it was a two kilometer walk to the Alaskan town of Hyder. So at four o’clock Lou, Lynn, Des and I sauntered down the road to Hyder. After two kilometers, we couldn’t see the border control yet, so we just kept walking. A further one or two kilometers and we finally came to the border and the customs officer said, “I’m sorry folks, the border is closed today.”

What! We stood there dumbfounded, it had been quite a walk, and to now have to turn around and go back, we were not impressed.

“Just kidding, go on through.” Ha, wow, a customs office with a sense of humour, how nice. “I saw you guys walking along the road to our border” he announced. Quick as a flash Lou shot back, “Well, why didn’t you give us a lift then?”

The town of Hyder is tiny, really tiny. We went into the pub for a drink,  and the very friendly publican Jodie said, “You guys wanna be Hyderised?” Well, yeah, that’s what we’re here for. “Well, OK, but you can’t smell it and must gulp it down in one hit, and if you can’t keep it down you have to buy a round for your buddies, OK?” So, Jodie poured four generous shots of some fire water, goodness knows what it was, but it tasted like mentholated spirits. Aaaaaagggh, talk about burn. Luckily she also supplied a glass of water, which we wasted no time getting down. “OK, now you’ve been Hyderised, congratulations.” Jodie joked with a smile. None of us was brave enough to have another shot, so we took the obligatory photo of the pub and started the long walk home. We had to cross the border again, of course, and this time we had to show our passports before we could walk back into Canada.

We were just in time to catch the evening meal at the King Edward Motel, which Lou and Lynn bought for us because it was Des’s 60th Birthday. A beautiful fish meal was served, and the boys tried a selection of local beer. What a wonderful way to spent a 60th birthday.

Over dinner we had a conversation with four lads from Alberta who had come to Hyder to go skidoing. They had spent the day on the snow having a blast, our boys, Des and Lou were envious and told them so. 


Did you know?

Steward is Canada’s most northerly ice free port.

Stewart holds the Canadian record for snow falls, 27 feet in one season.

Mt Rainey is the highest mountain in Canada rising from the sea at 5,700 feet.

Portland Canal is the forth longest fjord in the world.

Salmon Glacier is the world’s largest glacier accessible by road.

In the 1920’s Stewart and Hyder had a population of over 10,000 people.

There are 72 snow avalanche paths between Meziadian Junction and Stewart

Kermode bears are frequently seen around this area.

Stewart is 2,100 KM from Anchorage.

There are many beaver dams and eagles in this area.

Stewart has 6 motion pictures to its credit, making it the movie capital of the north. They are:

Bear Island, staring Donald Southerland, Vanessa Redgrave and Lloyd Bridges, 1979

The Thing, staring Kurt Russell, 1982

Iceman, staring Timothy Hutton and John Lorne in 1984

Leaving Normal, staring Meg Tilly, Christine Lahti & Barbara Russell, 1982

Insomnia, staring Robin Williams, Al Pacino and Hilary Swank 2002

Eight Below, staring Paul Walker in 2005
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Joe Leeuwrik. on

We share Shirly's comments.
What a day for your sixtieth Des.

Ann on

A great day, Des. Now what to do for Jenny's 60th?

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