"And the Jaws of Death Were Near..."

Trip Start Jun 17, 2008
1
7
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Trip End Aug 31, 2009


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Where I stayed
Kitwanga Coffee Shop and Tax Returns

Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Friday, August 8, 2008

My muscular bronzed body glistened with sweat as we crested the rocky bluff.  The sun beat down on my handsome, weathered face as I forged a trail for my young family.  Suddenly, the day's peaceful calm was shattered by an unearthly roar that could have only come from one thing...a grizzly! 

I subconsciously touched the aged scar on the back of my neck and I turned to Tracy, "My lady, take the little ones back.  And, fear not.  For the bells will not toll for me today".  These words belied my true feelings, and as my lips brushed against those of my one true love, I knew that the end must be near...but for whom?   The grizzly warily eyed his opponent and then, without warning, he charged!   Acting on raw instinct, I narrowly avoided the jagged claws of death that sliced through the air like a Ricky Vaive slapshot.   I grabbed a salmon from the icy river and hastily heaved it to the heavens.  While the salmon slowly arced through the air, I carved a lance from a nearby sapling...the ruse worked as the grizzly was momentarily distracted by the sight of the fish.  But a moment was all that was required, and with a primeval yell, I hurled the lance of doom.  My aim was true, and as the grizzly bear fell, his immense paw seemed to be raised in salute to a fellow fearless warrior.

Yes, you guessed it, we encountered a grizzly bear the other day.  I should probably acknowledge that the above description is not entirely accurate (for example, I don't have a scar on my neck).  We have been working our way back down from Alaska through Northern B.C.  on the Cassiar Highway (more on this route later), when we took a side trip to the "twin cities" of Stewart B.C and Hyder, Alaska to spot bears  feasting on salmon. 

Highlights/interesting tidbits include:

    The 70 km drive to Stewart - Hyder itself.  Very scenic route including Bear Glacier, Bear River Canyon and plenty of snow capped mountains;

    The "Canadians" of Hyder, Alaska...although pretty much a ghost town, the remaining residents of this US town use Canadian money, use a B.C. area code, send their children to a Canadian school and here's the biggie...they may be the only Americans who understand and can use the metric system!;

    Strange that you don't have to clear US customs to enter Alaska (on the one and only road into, and out of, Hyder) but returning to Canada on the same road you need to clear Canadian customs;

    Fish Creek Bridge...this is operated by the U.S. Forest Service and it enables you to safely watch bears fish for salmon from an elevated boardwalk.  This is where we were lucky enough to see a number of bears, both grizzlies and black bears.  They didn't "fish", but it was quite comical to see one bear slowly saunter past the boardwalk, look at the spectators and then proceed to drop some scat.  I couldn't help but laugh when the lady next to me excitedly cried "He's been eating berries! He's been eating berries!"  Does this scat fascination never end?...the prior week back in Canada there was not a mention of it, but within hours of crossing back into Alaska it's topic #1;

    Salmon Glacier...this one was an absolute beauty (and somehow it was back in Canada even though it was on the far side of Hyder, Alaska??).  The road was a wee bit treacherous and it was recommended that RV's not drive the route; based on what we heard at the prior nights campground we made the trek anyway.  The 30km of bone rattling dirt road, sharp inclines and cliff-side driving were more than worth it as we were able to get a topside view of a glacier that is usually reserved for people on a helicopter ride;

    Across the road from Salmon Glacier, Michael found some trails to explore.  Being there felt like we were at the top of a mountain (which I guess we were).  We all enjoyed making snowballs and hiking;

    Both Stewart and Hyder had a certain old fashioned charm to them...the pumps at the only gas station in Stewart were limited to 4 digits.  After $99.99 it rolled back to $0 (and yes, it does take substantially more than a $100 to satisfy the hunger of the beast we're driving);

Okay, now that we have the exciting bear stories out of the way let's get back to what else happened this week.  When we last blogged we were in Whitehorse, Yukon and from there we went back down the Alaska Highway to Watson Lake, Yukon, home of the previously visited Signpost Forest. In the few weeks since our last visit there, I had completed my MyGyver'esque conversion of a soldering iron into a wood burning tool and had completed the "Elop Family World Trip 2008" sign.  It probably took me an extra hour or so but I added our initials and "Waterloo, ON." to the sign lest any of my family members try to take credit for it.  Stopping here, putting up the sign and playing a number of games of freeze tag were highlights for the kids.

As mentioned above, we drove south from the Yukon down the Cassiar Highway.  This is the other main route back from the Yukon/Alaska (besides the Alaska Highway itself).  It is billed as a very scenic, very wildlife "friendly" drive but it also has a reputation for some nasty dirt road sections.  While the first 50 kilometers were rough, the rest of the highway was, with a few exceptions, great.  We have decided that, for us, a road less travelled translates into a much more enjoyable experience, and this little travelled route fit the bill perfectly.   On this highway, we stopped to take pictures of some mountain goats/sheep (?) for a full 20 minutes before another car came by (and of course it had to be a "rally" car that made a big production of skidding around us to avoid a collision..."go ahead dude, I'd put the Big Zeke's bumper up against your little Euro-car anytime!").  Other wildlife viewed on the drive included a red fox that casually trotted past us with a dead ground squirrel in its mouth...yes, a perfect opportunity for a "food chain" lesson on why that mean old fox killed the cute little squirrel. 

Also, on a hike just off the highway we had a close encounter with a beaver...we think we were too close because it keep swimming back and forth in front of us and then slamming its tail down on the water.

And now for the ever popular miscellaneous section:

    Dumb thing that I said #1...When Tracy asked me last night whether I wanted to put the kids to bed or wash the dishes, I said I would prefer to "work" on the computer and have her do both...after a pleasant "discussion" I opted for the dishes;

    We enjoyed a campfire with a family in a Northern BC provincial park.  The wife was an RCMP officer and she relayed a story where a First Nations resident said to her, "Do you have any native in ya?"  When she said no, he responded, "Ya want some?"   

She also said that as part of her community relations role, she once had to eat some beaver...apparently it doesn't taste like chicken.  Yes, the fun around campfires continues;

    We drove through the start of a forest fire...we think it may have been an intentional "prescribed" burn given the calm people standing around and the helicopter overhead.  At the National Parks we have learned a lot about the benefits of periodic forest fires on the general health of a forest.  So much so, that in some cases professional forest management staff purposely set fires to enable the forest to thin out and grow meadow and grasses to sustain certain wildlife;

    In one of Laura's bi-weekly fairy club meetings she had us work on our fairy names...following through the questionnaire, my fairy name turned out to be Blackberry Sweet Shimmer and Tracy's was Apple Blossom Elf Glitter.  (Michael refused to adopt a fairy name.)  The minutes of the last meeting also show that my request for a fairy name change to Pepperoni Pizza was denied without debate by Laura, the Commie Dictator Fairy!  I love her imagination but she's got to cut me some slack!  (especially when I haven't had pizza in 7 weeks);

    I grow weary of Westerners snickering at our Toronto Maple Leaf garbage can...haven't they heard that the Leafs signed Mikhail Grabovski?;

    We went swimming at one of the B.C. provincial parks we stayed at this week...it was finally warm enough for our first swim since Calgary;

    Dumb thing that I said #2..."I'll drive a little slower so that we have a better chance of seeing some bear and moose frolicking by the side of the road"...Frolicking?  What's happened to me?  Maybe I should stop attending those meetings...;

    Most economical campsite we stayed at this week...the field out front of the "Kitwanga Coffee Shop/Tax Returns" store...$0 for the overnight camping (as long as we didn't park on the septic bed), free Wi-Fi, picnic tables, a nice big town playground right next to the "campground", and no "quiet hours" so we could run the generator as long as we want (not that there is anybody else here anyway).  Also, unlike the "free" camping at Mukluk Annie's Salmon Bake Emporium (that we passed on) in the Yukon, this place didn't require the purchase of 5 expensive salmon dinners!  That being said, we did purchase some home-made banana bread, rocky road brownies and Nanaimo bars...the things we have to do!;

That's just about it for now...I think everybody else is asleep and I hear a certain Nanaimo bar calling my name...If, in the morning, I'm busted,  I'll just blame it on Bluebell Glutton Fairy.  Time to fly...
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Comments

highlandgirl
highlandgirl on

mightywarrior
I nearly swooned from desire reading the first paragraph of your latest blog, Mighty Warrior; then David, walking by and seeing my flushed face, asked why. I read him the paragraph...to which he replied, 'You know Tracy probably had to save him from the bear. It IS Kevin we're talking about...'
I quickly recovered. But keep writing anyway!! Its very entertaining...we miss you guys, Blackberry Shimmer Fairy and Xena, Warrior Princess.

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