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Hyder, Alaska

I stopped at the information center in Stewart, where I was treated like an honored guest. The attendant (hostess? concierge?) took the time to point out every little thing that I might possibly want to see in the either Stewart OR Hyder, which I thought was mighty accomodating. I asked her every stupid question about Canada and traveling in Canada that was on my mind, and she didn't laugh once. Not even a snicker.

Questions like:

When I go to the ATM and call up a balance on my account, is it given to me in Canadian dollars or American dollars? And if I have a maximum daily draw allowed on my account, will that be converted to Canadian dollars?

She was amazing and gracious and seemed to have all of the answers. She may have bluffed a couple, though.

I took a quick run around Stewart and looked at the historic buildings, and then whipped on into Hyder. Both Stewart and Hyder are old mining towns. Gold. Silver. Copper. What a bizarre place Hyder is. I'm guessing, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the tv show Northern Exposure was based on life in Hyder. I'm pretty sure that Hyder doesn't have a doctor in town, though. At least I didn't see anything resembling a doctor's office.

I checked in at the campground in town, all gravel, which seems to be standard issue for private campgrounds up here. This one was lux, though, and had electricity, laundry, and showers. (Coin-op; loonies only, than you very much.) I unloaded some things from the car, and then took off toward Fish Creek to see the salmon run and the bears. No bears were there, but there were quite a few people standing around looking bewildered and holding cameras (and one guy hawking his book of bear photographs [autographed, of course]). I walked around for a bit, then headed back to town for dinner. Ugh. Halibut again. I've eaten more Halibut in the past few weeks than I care to think about. I keep asking for the special in every restaurant I stop at and they keep bringing me Halibut. Fried Halibut. Baked Halibut. Stir-fry Halibut. Baked and stuffed Halibut. Halibut croquettes. And I'm still trying to find a restaurant that serves a steak sandwich that is actually a sandwich, like with two pieces of bread. Keep it simple, and don't call it a sandwich if it doesn't come with 2 pieces of bread. Eh. Maybe it's me.

It felt good to be back in the states, so to speak. You don't go through customs when you enter Hyder, but you go through customs when you leave and cross back over into Canada. (You have to use Canadian money, though, because the bank in Hyder closed in 1934.) The campground was filled with friendly people, quite a few Americans from the east and the midwest. Americans are much louder than Canadians. More brazen. The fact that we call ourselves "Americans" illustrates this beautifully. We just took the name and kept it, and everyone else in North America got shoved out of the loop.

I got up the next morning at about 6 and drove up to Salmon Glacier. It's about 30 miles of kidney-bashing washed-out washboard. And the view all of the way up is utterly breathtaking. I almost turned around a couple of times when the two 4-wheelers in front of me did, but I am so glad that I didn't wimp out. And I never answered the eternal question of: if you drive really fast on washboard do you bounce less or more than you do if you drive slow?

Salmon Glacier is beautiful. Supposedly it's the fifth largest glacier in the world. I got to the top and there was a family camping there. Just me and them. They were really nice, had traveled all of the way up past the Arctic Circle, and were on their way back to Vancouver. A little while later, other cars started arriving, and everyone was chatting and comparing trips. I met a delightful couple from Michigan (he was 66 and she was 50-something). They had been married for two years and had spent the summer doing Alaska. And they did ALL of Alaska, it seemed. They were traveling in a converted van a little larger than mine, but it had all of the goodies in it like microwave and bathroom, including a shower. We toured each other's vehicles.

On the way back to camp, I stopped to see if I could catch the bears at work, and this time I did. There was a young bear running up and down the river playing. He'd grab a salmon, take a big bite out of it, then toss it over his shoulder. Then he'd run and splash around. It was a riot. I don't think he was very hungry, and he may have a future in Hollywood.

At the bear frenzy I met a woman from D.C. who was traveling alone and we ended up spending a few days together hiking and watching movies. She was in a big motorhome, and had a couch and regular sized tv. (Not like my Barbie Doll version.) She was very interesting. She used to be an exotic dancer, and now is a traveling rock hound. (Or something.) She was on her way to San Diego and had traveled via interior Alaska. We walked around a lot and hunted for rock treasures. She went up the mountain and climbed around the mines and brought me back some gold.

A local woman suggested that I park my car at her house for a few days and ride the ferry up to Juneau and back. I seriously considered it (it's very inexpensive if you don't take your car), just to see what was there, but I was afraid I would be bored for 5 days and stuck on the boat. I'm kind of sorry that I didn't, though. I really wanted to see Sitka and Petersburg.

I had a whole lot of fun in Hyder.