August 1st 2016
Alaska at Last
There were quite a few reasons to explore the mountain town of Smithers this morning but we had a date with a glacier.
The road was quiet as we pulled from the busy car park of the Motel and onto the Yellowhead Highway (AKA Highway 16) and clicked through the gears. It was hard not to stare left as we rode in the early morning shadow of crimson peaked Hudson bay Mountain. Seconds out of town and we were already pulling over to grab a few photos.
Over the noise of the music blasting through my SENA headset, I could hear the roar of a nearby waterfall. Lisa ahead had already pulled over and was pointing excitedly at the guys salmon fishing. I use the word fishing loosely, as the process we watched basically involved a net being thrown into the waterfall and exhausted salmon being pulled out. Now, I’m sure there’s more to it but that’s how it looked. We watched awestruck as net after net was dipped into the cascading water and the caught salmon were pulled out, killed and prepped right at the waters edge. It doesn’t get much fresher than that. We photos grabbed we were soon back on the road.
Forty miles north of smithers and we’d detoured right to ride around the small village of Hazleton. Both bikes weaved and wobbled as we crossed the single lane Hagwilget Bridge that spans the Skeena River. Founded in 1866 the sleepy village now has a population of just 305. Of course, today’s a bank holiday and every wooden fronted building has a closed sign on the door. It didn’t matter, our detour had been a nice glimpse into Canada’s history.
On the northern shores of Meziadin Lake, at the Meziadin Junction, we turned west and onto the stunning 37a. Don’t be fooled the name isn’t exciting but the ride down to the town of Stewart is breath-taking as waterfalls crash down to the road-side. This 40-mile ride along the aptly named Glacier Highway is worth the time, not to mention it delivers you to the Alaskan border.
Ahead and Lisa had already pulled over to the side of the road and parked up. Across the fast flowing river, the tongue of a glacier was lapping the river. The ancient blue ridges of a millennia-old ice, looking more like dragon scales. We spent half and hour just soaking up the location and taking stock of exactly where we’d ridden too. Even with our stops, we’d made good time and the King Edward hotel (GPS: N55 56.185 W129 59.535) we’d booked two days ago had been easy to find. Lisa took the bags to our room as I quizzed the two KTM riders as to the best route to the Salmon Glacier.
Forty minutes later and with the bikes unloaded we were making our way through Stewart and to the end of the bay. A hanging white sign strung from a rock face to an old wooden building and reads, “Welcome to Alaska’. Without ceremony, we’re back in the USA and in Alaska for our first time. Past the tiny village of Hyder and the asphalt stops abruptly replaced with hard-packed dirt covered in gravel. Think riding on marbles and you get the idea. 16 miles of winding dirt track would lead us to the summit. The track wasn’t tough but required some concentration on the tight corners to stop the front wheels from washing out. The views down and to the left was nothing short of biblical as the Salmon glacier stretched out of sight and to the distant mountains that turned a hazy grey on the horizon.
At the top we’d parked up as close to the edge as we’d dared and stood amazed at what stretched out in front of us. From Patagonia to New Zealand, Lisa and I have seen our fair share of glaciers but the Salmon Glacier is pretty special and one worth the time to visit and enjoy.
I could write reams but for now, it’s better that you just check out the images, they speak volumes. Enjoy.
Heading back down and on the outskirt of Hyder a young Grizzly was gorging on exhausted salmon and making a show. I grabbed my camera and managed to snatch a few images before the battery died.
Back at the King Edward Hotel we ate fish and chips and recanted the day’s ride.
We’d not expected Alaska to be so impressive, so quickly