Hyder is a little town on the southern tip of Alaska. Mining kept the town alive back in the early 1900’s, but the few businesses along the run-down main street have all closed, and junk is piled in front and between the delapitated buildings. About the only businesses in town are an RV park, a gift shop, and a little girl across the road selling lemonade.
Tourist come here to visit Fish Creek, a feeding ground for bears when salmon are swimming upstream to spawn. The forest service has built a walkway high above the stream for people to watch the bears fishing. It costs $5 for a pass to use the walkway.
I traveled up to the viewing platform last night and stood at the railing with a hundred other visitors, waiting in anticipation of a bear fishing show. For an hour nothing happened, and then, one at a time three black bears came out of the bushes and tried their luck at catching a salmon.
The first one jumped into the stream but the fish were too quick and he came up empty. The next two just walked along the river bank and never tried to catch a fish. There was a lull for quite a while and many people gave up and left. Just as I was ready to leave a large grizzly stepped out of the reeds and into the water.
The ranger said he was a regular to the area and they even had a name for him – Dogbear. Dogbear walked up the stream and caught a fish on his second try. He carried it to an island and tore flesh from the salmon while the prey continued to thrash and flop. It was all quite gruesome to watch, even though you know the salmon are destined to die after they spawn. After he was done with the fish, two bald eagles flew in to scavenge what was left.
While the grizzly was fishing, no black bears came around. I asked the ranger if they chased the other bears away and he said a grizzly will kill and eat black bears. Momma black bear will send her cubs up a tree when a grizzly is about. Grizzlies are bad-tempered and mean! I asked if any bears had ever come up on the walkway. He said one time a small black climbed a tree and stepped over onto the platform. They took people down the emergency exit and then chased the bear off the walkway.
Hyder, AK and Stewart, BC are both on the same body of water, seperated by a natural fjord. Stewart has a few more business and seems to be prosperous. You can drive into Hyder without going through customs but on the way out you have to clear customs. I asked a local why they check one way and not the other. He told me that years ago Canadians would come to Hyder to buy cigarettes and liquor and bring them back into Stewart. The officials didn’t want to be cheated out of duty on things bought in the US so they put up a border crossing. That’s what he told me but who knows if that is true.
I took a ride on Honda to Stewart this morning and then rode up to Bear Glacier in the afternoon. I’ll go up to Fish Creek again tonight and head out in the morning.