Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Monday, September 4, 2017 Quesnel to Stewart, B.C.

Today is Labor Day holiday, and last day of Old Threshers, but neither of these events affect us.  We have another long day of driving north. 

It was foggy this morning, at least we were hoping that it was not a smoke hazed sky.  In an hour, the sun did burn the fog away, and skies were clear. 

We are driving through pine forest that envelope you, and then wide-open spaces, fertile mountain valleys, beautiful lakes, and rivers.  It is a beautiful drive, but a loooong drive. At Prince George, we turned west on Highway 16 (Yellowhead Hwy) toward Prince Rupert. We will go west to the junction with Hwy 37 (Cassiar Hwy) where we will turn north.

Our vehicle we has the capability of converting everything to the metric system – kilometers, so at the Canadian Border we made the change – we are not doing conversions all the time.  We figured we are paying $3.50 per US gallon of gas.  We also realize that the Canadian drivers pay close attention to speed limits.  We have seen lots of police on the highways, so we are very careful too. 

Along the Cassiar we saw our first black bear of the trip.  He crossed the highway in front of us and stopped on the right side of the road to eat tender plants.  We slowly drove up beside him and he did not seem to mind.  His fur looked so sleek and soft.
Alpine Horn in Smithers

Moricetown Canyon, BC, - Canyon with Salmon Run

Bridge over Canyon near Hazelton

At Meziadin Junction on the Cassiar we turned west on highway 37A.  This highway takes you to Stewart B.C and Hyder, Alaska.  In 1999 when we drove this way, we accidentally came across this spot.  We were so shocked to see beautiful Salmon Glacier from above.  We wanted to see it again, and in that we are here during salmon spawning season we wanted to see Fish Creek Wildlife area, as bears frequent the river for a good meal. 

The road back to Stewart/Hyder is a beautiful drive.  You are surrounded by the majestic coastal mountains which have hanging glaciers as well as ones that come down to the water. Bear Glacier is very impressive, as you can see it from the main road.

We soon discovered that in the past 20 years Stewart and Hyder have not expanded or improved!!  We found a room at the only hotel in Stewart, and in fact it has the only restaurant open in the two towns. Hyder is a total Ghost town. Stewart is somewhat better, but not vibrant by any means! However, our intent of visiting here, is to see nature. 

Glacier No. 1

Bear Glacier

After checking in at the hotel we went to the Fish Creek viewing area.  The National Park Service has a viewing boardwalk where you can stand to watch the bears come to the river.  It cost $5 per day per person, and of course dusk or dawn are the best times.  We first saw Bald Eagle sitting on a tree branch above a lagoon. Than very quietly, a black bear appeared on the river bank.  Apparently, this was his/her 3rd appearance this evening.  He walked along the river, stopped for a brief minute and then jumped into the river pulling out a nice sized Salmon. Off he went into the bush to enjoy his meal.  In about 20 minutes he returned for another meal.  Apparently, they saw a grizzle bear between 4-4:30 this afternoon.  

Black Bear Fishing

This river is very shallow.  We could easily see the Salmon. The Salmon-run right now is Pink Salmon.  They come in from the ocean, swim upstream, to where they want to lay their eggs.  They do not eat after they leave the ocean. And in fact, they leave the ocean salt water for fresh water streams.  You could see they are in pairs, the female flopping around (it is quite an action) to make a nest in the sandy river bottom where she will lay her eggs.  Immediately after she lays the egg the male will disperse a volume of sperm which will fertilize the eggs.  How this is all done before the water washes everything downstream is unreal.  The baby fish will stay in the sandy river-bottom until spring. The other unreal part is the personal GPS’s that Salmon have – to know to return to their birth-stream/river four to five years later.
Salmon preparing a nest for their eggs

After the salmon lay their eggs and disperse their sperm, they live another week before they die. We saw dead fish in the river – their life work is over.  The bear picked up a dead one, but put it down again – he wanted fresh!

It was very interesting at the viewing area – we learned a lot.  Back in Stewart we ate dinner at the hotel and then came to the room. Tomorrow we are going to see Salmon Glacier.           

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