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 Carol and Dick Stewart are full-time RVers from California and have been on the road for over 7 years in a 40 foot Fortravel Unihome. They are very good friends and you probably recognize ther names because we have included articles from them in our old newsletter and in our book, Movin' On. They are spending the summer of 2001 touring Alaska for the second time. 
By Carol & Dick Stewart
ALASKA----We're baaaaccccckkkkkkk! 

Just when we were beginning to think our Alaskan adventure was over, we rolled down the Cassier Highway and into Stewart/Hyder.  Now Stewart is in BC and a significant town of trade, tourism, fishing, shrimping (yummm!), and the school.  Hyder is the last town in Alaska, on the seacoast, but totally separated from the rest of Alaska.  So these folks FEEL their separateness, but they love it.  The sheriff comes to town from Ketchican every few days to look things over lightly and closes his eyes to the rest.  If there is an emergency, call the RCMP.  They are just next door.  And I do mean next door. 

There is hardly a breath between the two towns, but there is a border. Traffic out to the nearby tungsten mine just whizzes from Stewart into Hyder and up the Salmon glacier to the mine. Folks could get lost up there----especially the folks who want to be lost from society. Not many questions are asked of folks up there, and some are notorious.  But basically they are good folks, maybe just a little gone wrong sometime ago and haven't been caught. Folks who mind their business and don't cause trouble seem to thrive in Hyder. There is a post office--in a portable building with a substantial gazebo-like roof overhead that tends to microsize the building. 

And then there's fish creek. Great platforms and boardwalks have been built so that we can watch the grizzlies and black bear come down from the hills and feed on the spawning salmon.  And come they do--every morning and afternoon.  The bear baggers (watchers) know the bear by name, when they had their cubs, and of course the cubs have names too. So the folks watch the bears everyday, almost all day. Oh, here comes Mom and yearling cub now! Mom is a bit on the nervous side as she crosses the street and watches and hears the Nikons, Canons, and Leicas go on fast speed--zip, zip, purr, purr, click, rattle, rattle with film cases and lens. But the babe is cool; he thinks he will take a scratch, so he lags behind Mom, stands up, backs up to the power pole, and scratches his full back; it's a full monty scratch; it feels oh, so good.  Yea, yawn some too.  But Mom speaks and he's off to help hunt. As they stroll down the creek, Mom bats at a fish, and picks up a salmon by putting her claw through its tail fin and womps it up on the beach. One for the kid, one for Mom. Dinner!! They go off into the bushes for some private time. 

The watchers, the bear baggers, are thrilled!  And, of course so are we.  But there is lamenting in the crowd--"Oh, I didn't have the right lens on; I got so excited I forgot to shoot."  "Oh, I've come here three years, and I've finally seen that and my camera had its handy dandy water cover on it." "Do you think they will be back?" "You can count on it, and you can count on the mosquitoes, and the pushy camera fiends, and the smell of rotting salmon, and visitors from other countries trying to back up their campers and nearly hitting other cars or rolling into the creek."  Oh, it was exciting and FREE and it just takes a little patience and they DO return every morning and every afternoon to do a show--they call it getting ready for WINTER. 

Now people do it too. They call it the fleecing of the tourists: work hard all summer and rather laze around in the winter making items to sell next summer. But there really isn't any fleecing and folks are so helpful. A lady stopped in her busy tracks, said, "You look perplexed; can I help you?" "Oh, I just need a restroom" "Oh, the washrooms are---oh, I'll show you--they are few and hard to find."  So she interrupts her busy visit from her home (at the light house on Queen Charlotte Island) to show us where the restrooms are.  Great folks!

Then there's Mike who power washes RV's for a dollar a foot. That was his price seven years ago.  He says that it is a good price; easy to figure, why change?  He just does this in the summer to pay off the IRS for good years as a shrimper.  And a lady makes beads by hand, and they start at $30, and the Wildflour serves just breakfast and morning rolls, best known as cinnamon buns--and they are the best ever. And her daughter really wants to turn this morning shop into an Italian Bistro--in a town of 500 on a good tourist day--well, it's a natural, Mom decorated it in green and white--right!! 

So the folks of Hyder who prefer to be called just Mike or Bob or whatever with no last name, do have to go to Stewart for supplies. And the Canadians decided they wanted to keep track of these folks and their own too (who knows what can be smuggled into CA from a town of no industry, and lord knows nothing grows there except trees and rocks).  So the Canadians put up a customs station. And the locals laugh, and the Canadians have a beautiful building and lots of traffic, but no offenders, so they send their trainees there to learn the game--really, really boring, but somebody has to do the job. 

Now here is fishing at it's best, but it does take time. Go to Hyder sometime in July when the great glacier melt is on. Wait for the lake formed by glacier water to fill AND overflow.  Here comes the water!!!! And the river rises and rises. But there is no flood; the water is expected. Here come the fish up the stream too. There goes the water out to the ocean. AND the fish are left too near the banks, in little pools of water, they can't get out.  So pick 'em up--it's allowed--best deal in town, in the country--no license, no limit, no gear, just get up and get 'em.  What a hoot!  Freezers full in minutes. Hooray for Hyder fishing industry, course they can't be sold either. It all happens one day in July, and it's over.  Be quick. 

And once a week, about, it's posted, Ron's grocery truck comes from Bellingham, WA with groceries for the store, the cafes, and folks.  Need some beer? He brings it.  Need a new shower head?  He brings that too. Ron is very popular; things barely get on the shelves in these parts; inventory is always down, but when it is up, there is a sale--usually on a misordered item. So that's Ron. 

Hyder isn't lost, just forgotten.  It's the rebellion in all of us, but it is VERY patriotic.  Folks are proud of their freedoms that the Canadians don't seem to have.  Don't ask them what they are, they just know they have 'em. 

But Hyder really isn't Alaska--it's own place, make of it what a person will, the rest of the world has--AND it is cold VERY cold.