The Cassiar Highway, Hyder and the Icefields Parkway

June 21st, 2008

Sunset on the Cassiar Highway

Cool mountains on the drive to HyderWe decided not to take the Alcan home for two reasons: we wanted a change of pace, and we were told by the crazy parking lot attendant in McCarthy to visit the Alaskan town of Hyder to get “Hyderized”. He brought up getting “hyderized” with such excitement the moment we told we had driven up to Alaska that we had to go. The cogs of fate had been set in motion. It was funny really. As we made the 40 mile drive off of the main road to Hyder we weren’t sure why we were going and if we really should be going there… and on the 40 mile way back we had the same feelings. The misgivings may even have been stronger.

Huge avi snowpile on way to HyderHyder is the southern most town in Alaska accessible by road. It’s the final destination of the “49ers” - bikers who ride through all 49 continental states in 10 days. It occupies, litterally, a two miles piece of land between the Portland Canal and the Canadian border. It used to a larger mining town, but now it is nothing but a small tourist economy of bear watchers Crazy wooden dock in Hyderand would-be hyderizees. The neighboring Canadian town of Stewart is much larger, although it too lacks much of an economy. There is no border crossing to enter Hyder, but there is one to return to Canada. The road to Hyder is the Cassiar highway - the alternative to the Alacan if you drive to Alaska - and on top of this being the longer route Hyder is an additional 80 mile side trip.

Bear on the Yukon/British Columbia borderAfter a long two-day drive down the Cassiar, complete with bears and sketchy gas stations, we rolled into Hyder in the early evening. We got some food in Stewart and then looked for a place to stay in Hyder. We drove up towards the Salmon Glacier and checked out the deserted Fish Creek bear viewing area, but decided if we were going to get Hyderized we needed to stay right in town. The are two campgrounds in Hyder (although I think the same company/person owns both), and at first one we stopped at, Camp Run-A-Muck, we were pretty much told off by the fat asshole who The Seafood Express bus in Hyder - great shrimpwas running the place. He said he wouldn’t let us camp there because we would be eaten by bears. Whatever. It was a weird scene and he gave me a bad vibe. We stopped for some awesome fresh shrimp at the Seafood Express bus restaurant and then tried the Sealaska Inn. I really nice (and hot) girl was working the bar and said camping was no problem, they even have a special area for tents. They did indeed - with fire pits and everything - so we camped there. She wasn’t worried about bears. It turns out the Sealaska Inn is also the only bar still operating in Hyder, so it was perfect. We were camped 50ft from the Hyderization.

Getting people hyderized since 1956We finished our supply of beer and whiskey (which was ample), and hit the bar. Things are hazy after that. I know we drank some more beers. I also know I learned that technically getting “hyderized” means taking a shot of Everclear (just the 151). I know we officially and technically got “hyderized”. They gave me a dorky card to prove it. What I don’t know is how we started talking with the hippie couple or how long we were in the bar. I have vague memories of leaving the bar, Drew puking, and me wandering about Hyder with the two hippies. There was tether ball involved, somehow. I gave away my “Married to the Sea” “Thank God It’s Wednesday” shirt to the hippy girl. It was a trade, although I’m sure what for. There was more wine and beer. There was puking in the bathroom.

Our campground at the Sealaska in HyderThe following morning was one of the more brutal hangovers of my life. I threw up in the morning - only the second time I have ever done that. It took us until about 6PM to roll out of Hyder. Jesus. Who, seriously, hears about getting “hyderized”, thinks it sounds like a good idea, and goes and does that? Like I said, our misgivings were even greater leaving than arriving…

The Columbia IcefieldGoats outside of Jasper

After a little more sightseeing in Hyder we continued our drive home. Our route back to Montana from the Cassiar involved going through the heart of the Canadian Rockies on the Icefield Parkway. It was an amazing drive. The mountains there are so unique and beautiful. I’d never seen the Columbia Icefield before, so that was fun. I didn’t realize there was an icecap that big outside of Alaska. We ended up camping in the same valley by Banff that we had camped in on the way up. It was a beautiful and scenic end to our trip. As an unexpected treat, we even saw a Lynx cross the road and got a picture of it!

A lynx!Great sunset on the Icefields Highway

And so ends the great Alaskan adventure.

End of the trip scruff

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