We slept in Stewart last night literally a minute from Hyder, Alaska. I set the alarm for 4:30am so I could watch the sunrise. I looked out the window to see clouded mountains and went back to sleep. It was still cloudy when we left the room at 6:30, our latest start yet. We visited the estuary boardwalk where I read about the local birds and pronounced Oregon like oregano without the O.
We got muffins and coffee at the Temptations Bakery & Deli across the street and went into Alaska. I turned right and thought I would drive 30 or so miles and turn around. After ten we came to a boardwalk where walkers can view bears fishing, but we saw none. Soon after that the pavement ends so I turned around. At the other end of the road is a boat ramp and an excellent view of the area – Mile O’ Alaska.
I thought it funny to have a border crossing here but took it seriously, even though they didn’t have a stamp either. I showed the dogs’ rabies certs. and we were good to go. As the sun clears the fog we get to enjoy more of what we missed last night and the glacier that was a bright chunk in a dark mass is now a mixture of bright light-blue and white. Its size is phenomenal though the reflection isn’t the smoothness needed for a mirrored picture.
We stop in Bell II for gas, friendly conversation and service, and to see a fluffy dog. This country is beautiful and we want to come back and explore it via seaplane, river boat, snowmobile, bicycle, horse, and helicopter. Caleb starts to tell me how he feels bad that we didn’t bring his dad to see Alaska with us. I suppose we could’ve swallowed the $600-1,000 plane ticket and enjoyed his company. We are hoping to do something with him in Montana when we drive through for the last time in the next two years.
We stopped at Natadesleen Lake, part of a provincial park, to walk the 1km trail. There was some boardwalk between a muddy trail lined with watery ditches on both sides. Piggy bypassed the first wooden haven to get her feet wet, I coaxed her across the second, and carried her across the third. We left there, rounded a turn, and I saw a bear on a hill. I pulled away to let him finish eating and further down the road saw one laying in a field in the sun. The temperature is in the 40s which is a sweater for me and a tolerable day for a bear with a thick coat on.
Went to take a drink of coffee that we got from the café this morning. I had taken a sip an hour or two ago, or so I thought, and it was drinkable. I went to take a swallow and quickly opened my mouth to let coffee fall on my leg and the seat – catch and release! It was hot and my tongue was temporarily sore, but nothing some water and shelled sunflower seeds couldn’t fix.
Then we got our next animal sighting – four caribou on the roadside – two without horns on the left and two with on the right. We have passed three squirrels, one really red, that Sparky hasn’t noticed. We got to meet the hummingbird’s northern cousin with a layer of warmth and slower wing speed to conserve heat. We have noticed random chairs – plastic and lawn, etc. just set in a field or clearing perhaps for fishing or reading or watching the sunset. We round a corner and the trees on the grassy edge of the dirt cliff make me think of a marine haircut that cut too close – like through the skin to the bone.
Our next stop would be Good Hope Lake where we thought we would be getting gas, but that part of their sign had a green sticky note over it. I wasn’t too worried as we still had a half tank and promise of gas in the near future. I was more than grateful to walk around some and see the varied greens and blues of the lake. It was a nice break from the windy road covered in deep potholes.
Most of the Canadian highways are well taken care of and I was enjoying the whitish road with no lines, simply elegant, when I am caught off guard by a slow sign next to a hole. I was able to maneuver on the road to avoid the other major ones, but parts of the road are riddled with them and some of the repairs are getting deeper again.
I can’t blame the road system, but only appreciate the weather that created this area, even if it does destroy roads and create jobs. We have lunch in a burned forest – salad and leftover noodles. The dogs get croutons as treats and before we know it we are back among the living – the trees that is. Caleb asks for a poem and I come up with some rhyming lines about lunch. ” Lunch was had by trees that are dark, lettuce and noodles and pieces of bark. Crunch, Crunch is what we ate. Crinkle, Crinkle is what we threw away.”
We drive into Yukon and are amazed at all the names written in stone along the roadside. It would be one thing if it was ten or twenty, but they vary in size and go on for miles with gaps where less rocks could be found. We stop for gas and washroom and have to go inside for the key. We learn that in Yukon you can be 19 to drink, but can’t buy single bottles or cans to go, and last year you were required by law to buy food with alcohol.
We stopped to see the museum in Teslin. It is all stuffed local animals, some of which we’ve seen and others that we look forward to getting the chance. We were walking around the gift shop and a German couple asked the lady behind the counter about a gift concerning cigarette ashes. I thought for a second and then asked if they meant ash tray. They thanked me for the translation and the employee let us know they would have no luck finding one because smoking was outlawed six years ago.
We get phone signal and I’m able to receive a text from Uncle Ed on an Alaskan cruise telling me good afternoon from Skagway at 2pm and we won’t arrive until 11pm – with a priority of getting gas cruising down the hill that is Alaska – a magical place like any other that is always better than the pictures. The road clears up and we see our second porcupine, but this one is smaller, in another country, and in the daylight.
We play leapfrog with a semi, passing it, then stopping when we see another porcupine and record the third one in the Yukon eating. We pass five altogether. We pass two black bears and don’t stop as they want to run as the car nears on the gravel road. We round a turn, a common occurrence up here, and I see this semi-large, multicolored, fluffy animal near the roadside making its way up the hill. I immediately knew it was a bear and asked Caleb if he saw it. He couldn’t believe we’d just seen a grizzly cub and said we should leave before seeing the mother. This encouraged me to wait a minute longer, but with the cub safe in the trees the larger grizzly had no reason to show herself for a picture.
We continue on and I want to stop at everything, but we are running out of gas and the last two places that usually have it are closed and one place was just opening for the season so we press on. We pull up to what we think is the border crossing to find out it’s the Canada customs and Alaska’s is another seven miles away. We get to take our picture by the sign, drive some more, then pull up to the light and wait for it to turn green. I pull up to the open door and turn off the car to conserve gas.
The nice elder gentlemen slides our passports through the reader, asks if we are here to work for the summer, and when he finds out our dogs are from California he’s reassured that they come with all the right paperwork. When I sense his turn is over I ask if he has a stamp available. He tells me to standby and that if it wasn’t the middle of the night (10pm with the sun still shining) I could come in. If we lived here we would need black-out curtains to simulate night so we could make a sleeping schedule.
He walks inside, shakes the stamper, and presses what little ink in them still exists on a random page in each of our books. He thanks us for waiting to ask and tells us to enjoy our vacation. Apparently we came at a great time to enjoy the weather. Caleb’s reads admitted SKA. I wonder if the first part ALA has no ink, but on the other page he was admitted COB when we went to Niagara Falls last year.
We enter town and there are still crowds of people playing ball, walking their dogs, and playing corn hole behind a bar with people filling the stands. We get gas and Caleb calls in our reservation. We asked about the Northern Lights earlier and were told it was a matter of coldness and clearness. We don’t know if we will be able to stay awake to wait for the dark. It’s 10pm Alaska time, and we came from 11pm Yukon time. It has been another long and exciting day and we know we need sleep to prepare for tomorrow, but the idea of seeing something so awesome keeps us on edge.
We check into the Westmark Inn and get a corner room across the street specifically for pets. Then we park our car in the lot across another street. We go back into the lobby to buy drinks since we don’t know if the store two blocks away is open. While in there I ask the desk clerk about the Northern Lights and he puts us on a call list to wake us up if they are seen around 2am when they peak. It’s still way too bright and cloudy now. Here’s to a few hours of sleep.