SUNDAY, AUGUST 13, 2006
It may not have been Friday, the 13th, but Sunday the 13th proved to be the worst day of our trip. It started out rainy and we headed down the highway and soon turned on Highway 37. According to our Milepost, this road is not paved the entire way; it has four patches of gravel. We did meet a fellow from California on the bus in Denali who said he had come up to Alaska this way and that it was paved the entire way. We found out he didn't know what he was talking about. We also met a fellow in Tok from Anchorage early on in our trip who told us that the highway between Fairbanks and Anchorage was a four-lane, divided highway. No such road exists. Are these people just not paying attention?
We hadn't been on the Cassiar Highway (Highway 37) very long when it started to pour. Although the trip is very scenic, it was hard to enjoy with so much rain. We stopped at Jade City hoping to find a jade bear with a salmon in his mouth that we could afford to buy. No such luck--their prices were out of this world. I looked at a small carved bear that they wanted almost $100 for, and Jack looked at a ship for which they were asking $25,000. He said he kept looking to make sure he had the decimal point in the right place. Sure enough, it was twenty-five thousand dollars. I wonder how many of those they sell. I couldn't even find any earrings that I liked at a price I was willing to pay.
The terrain of the highway suggests you should see lots of wildlife, but they must have all been seeking shelter for the night. We were hoping we'd reach Hyder tonight; but when we first hit gravel, we knew that would never happen. The first section was sixteen miles long and mostly mud. We had three more sections after that. The last section wasn't muddy, but it had a lot of loose gravel and several vehicles traveling toward us failed to slow down, thus throwing gravel our way. One in particular managed to throw it towards our windshield.
The place we planned to stop to camp was closed, so we headed toward the next site which was seventy-five miles down the highway. We arrived at 7:30 and they were full-up. They were willing to let us park in their parking lot for $28.00 We would be boondocking. This seemed excessive, so we decided to eat supper in their restaurant and head another seventy-five miles down the road to the next campground. Supper was good, at least, and then we headed on our way. We were finally done with gravel for this road, and, hopefully, for the entire trip. Jack made the comment that this had been the worst day of our trip with weather. A beautiful drive was turned into a difficult one by the excessive rain. From 8:30 t0 9:00 P.M., our first half hour after leaving the restaurant, we did finally see wildlife. The black bears were out and we saw a total of eight different bears. The cutest were a mother with her triplets. These were obviously cubs born this past spring. They were the littlest wild bears I've ever seen. They looked more like stuffed animals than live bears. They quickly ran into the woods, but mama stayed behind to protect their escape--allowing us to get a picture of her.
As we traveled down the road, I kept finding black gnats crawling on me and on the passenger side window. I started to complain and asked Jack if he was sure he hadn't left anything open. I also inexplicably felt a raindrop on my forehead. I looked up, but the vent appeared to be closed and I couldn't see any leaks from the roof. When we finally reached our destination, a British Columbia campground, Jack discovered that the platform for his bed (which is above our driving seats) was full of the same black bugs. We couldn't figure out where they were coming from. Jack crawled up on the bed to see if either of the side windows was open--they weren't. Then I said, check the front window to see if we have a hole or crack in that. It is totally covered by curtains and not visible from the inside. When he checked it, he discovered we didn't have a front window over his bed. It had shattered, probably on our last section of gravel, and glass was all over the farthest section of his bed. As you can imagine, we were in no mood for this. It was 10:30 P.M. and we had a major mess to clean up, plus we were missing a large window. The first thing Jack did was tape plastic over the missing window. Then he put his wet sleeping bag over our driving chairs to try to dry it. As he did this, glass scattered all over the floor. He picked as much up by hand as we could. Jack had to tape the window from inside because we had no way for him to reach that high window from the outside. We only hoped that it would keep additional bugs out and protect us from the rain if it started again. Jack spent the night sleeping in my bed; and I slept on the couch.
MONDAY, AUGUST 14, 2006
We got up early. Jack claimed he didn't sleep and I had periods where I did, but I kept waking to hear it raining outside. I prayed the plastic would hold over the broken out window through the rain. It seemed to have held. Jack removed the mattress from that bed and laid it back on top of my bed in the back along with all of his bedding. Then he went outside to cut off the tarp which was outside the window and over the windshield to where we couldn't see. We stopped on our way out to ask the Campground Host if he knew where we could have it fixed. He knew of no one in Hyder or Stewart, where we were headed. He offered to give us cardboard to cover it from the outside and he provided us with a ladder to get up there to tape it.
We headed for Stewart, British Columbia, which is next to Hyder, Alaska, for an RV repair place. They said they couldn't do anything without starting to drill in the body of the motorhome. We didn't want that so we decided to try to tape plastic over the cardboard and survive until we hit Smithers, B.C. which is down the road, Jack did make an appointment with this fellow to have our oil changed in the afternoon. The entire afternoon was spent waiting for these people to take the motorhome to change its oil or waiting for them to change it. Jack did get a little grocery shopping done.
Before we went to the garage, Jack spent an hour removing glass from the shelf upon which his mattress and sleeping bag normally lie. After the oil change, we used the city-owned RV dump to dump our holding tanks since none of the campgrounds provide a dump. We are set up at a campground in Hyder called Camp Run-a-muck. It has a fairly pleasant setting and is only three miles from the bear-viewing platform provided by the National Forest rangers. Then we went to a car wash for Jack to try to get some of the mud off of the motorhome. We left the truck in the campground, or we would have washed it too. When we returned to the campground, Jack attacked the floors with a vacuum and the bed area. Then we put the motorhome back together again.
Jack picked up pizza from down the road for dinner; and after dinner we watched a movie that I had on video tape since we only have one TV station here, and it was not very good. Then Jack headed off to bed. I am out of books to read although I probably brought a dozen, so I watched another film and then tried to sleep. We were too tired this evening to even think about going to the bear viewing station on Fish Creek. That is Hyder's claim to fame. Every year bears head into this area to fish at the creek for dog (chum) salmon and pinks from July through September. Both grizzly (brown bears) and black bears show up. The woman who checked us into the campground said that lately a momma grizzly and her cubs had been hanging around. She advised us to go between 5:30 P.M. and 9:00 P.M. which she claimed is the best viewing time. We will have to try to see them tomorrow evening as we were just too exhausted this evening.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2006
Today we took out after lunch to drive to the Salmon Glacier in the pickup. This is a very scenic drive and the most amazing part is that you actually drive up higher than the glacier and look down on it. The only other time we've looked down on a glacier was ten years ago on our Alaskan cruise. At that time we took a small boat up the Lynn Canal to Skagway from Juneau. We flew back to Juneau that evening in small planes. The pilot told us that since it was only the third clear day they had had so far that summer, they were not going to fly back via the canal but over the Juneau ice cap instead. They did a lot of banking and dove close to the glaciers for us to see them. After a while even the heartiest fliers were having trouble with motion sickness. Anyway, it was spectacular to drive to this glacier and look down on it. Salmon Glacier is the fifth largest glacier in British Columbia; it is a really big glacier.
On the way down we had planned to stop at Fish Creek where the bears hang out, but the parking lot was so full we were unable to find a place close enough for me to walk to the viewing platform. We went on into Stewart and had Halibut fish and chips for dinner at the King Edward Hotel. This is a very nice hotel and the meal was delicious. Then we headed back out Salmon Glacier Road to try to see some bears. We met a lot of people leaving on our way out and a handicap space was available when we arrived. A ranger met us and told us that no bears had been spotted, and people had left because they were tired of waiting for the bears to show up. Jack decided to get out and check out the viewing platform. As he was coming back, a woman said she had just seen the mama grizzly and her three cubs cross the road on the way to the creek. So Jack came to get me and we headed up the platform. First we saw a lone grizzly, probably a male, eating and looking back nervously over his shoulder. We had heard that the mama grizzly had chased papa grizzly off from the creek a few days ago. Next mama showed up with the cubs. These are obviously first year cubs. Two were much smaller than the other, but we do believe they had to all be from a spring litter. Mama would tromp around in the water and finally catch a fish. Then she would take it to the edge of the creek, and the cubs would come down and eat on it for a while. Soon she was off fishing for another one. We enjoyed this show for an hour, and then it was time to leave as they close at 10:00 P.M. It was really something to see grizzly bears so close and to see them fishing for their dinner was extraordinary.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2006
Today we drove from Hyder, Alaska, to Smithers, British Columbia. We knew there was a glass repair place in Smithers, and we had their name and phone number from a shop in Stewart, BC. Unfortunately, we had no cell service for most of the trip. Finally, as we approached Smithers, I was able to call and confirm that they were open until 5:15 P.M. We arrived in Smithers at 5:00, and we made it in time for them to check to see if they had the glass we needed in stock or would have to order it. They had what we need and we have an appointment at 8:00 A.M. tomorrow to have the glass replaced. It will cost around $600.
In the meantime, I called our insurance company and spoke with a claims person who is turning this over to a claims adjustor. The adjustor is supposed to get back to us within two days to determine whether they will approve the repair or not. I told the young lady with whom I was speaking that if it rained, there would be water damage to the interior of the RV and that would just add to the cost of the claim. She informed me it was our obligation to see that no more damaged occurred, but she refused to tell us to get the glass replaced. We are taking a chance that American Family will at least pay part of this bill--we have a $100 deductible. This should certainly be covered under comprehensive.
After we visited the glass repair place, we headed a little farther down the road to Riverside Golf and RV Camp. It is a pleasant camp and we were assigned a site where I am supposed to be able to get Wi-fi, but so far it has failed to come through. I might have time to go to the office later and use it there. I really need to get this log posted. We have gone over ten days without posting on the internet.
We talked to both Jeff and Mandy tonight since we finally have cell phone service again. Mandy says she has sent me some e-mails, but I explained that I hadn't received them since we hadn't had internet service in so long. We were both too tired to think about cooking tonight, so Jack went out to pick up carryout for dinner.
The scenery in this part of British Columbia has been spectacular and we have passed lots of streams which supposedly have salmon in them. Once again we are seeing lots of glaciers in the mountains and quite a bit of wild life. We saw two black bears today--one just outside of Stewart on the side of the road and another crossed in front of the motorhome as we slowed for road construction. Both were not in a hurry to get out of our way. We also saw one ptarmigan and a coyote. We have seen a lot of ptarmigan on this trip, and I forget to mention it. On our drive on the Cassiar Highway we saw six, two adults and four babies. These were not all together; in fact, one of the babies was all by itself.