A Foggy, Funky Outpost

old carssmall Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 9.52.38 AM

I had few opportunities to take photographs during the last few days, as I’ve been riding in a mass of frigid, wet fog that followed me across a full third of the continent. I ran into this weather system at the Yukon-British Columbia border and ever since I’ve been pelted with rain, smothered with cold and damp fog and blasted by icy winds. I chose to ride through it rather than wait it out because I didn’t relish the idea of biding my time in a cold, wet tent at a campsite nor did I feel like spending $150 a night to sit in a crummy motel room watching paternity test results on the Maury Povich Show.

This trip is not designed to be a masochistic exercise in testing my capacity for discomfort. I simply aim to see part of the world from a unique perspective while encountering interesting people and cultures along the way. It’s just that I decided if I was going to be miserable anyways, I might as well be making some miles.

At one particularly blustery point in the ride, I began cursing the conditions out loud. The weather gods then decided to send a hail storm as punishment for my insolence. Luckily, I was able to duck into a gas station-cum-fireworks stand run by a proprietor with a wispy and unsettling moustache. The shop also housed a disturbingly large selection of axes, mattresses, glass and ceramic antique figurines, and fiberglass septic tanks. However, the weather was bad enough that I felt more comfortable in a room full of axes with Mr. Creepy-Moustache-Man than I did out of doors. I waited until the hail reverted to regular rain and got on my soggy way past mountains I couldn’t see.

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The high point of this trip was a 70-kilometer detour that I took to the town of Hyder, at the southernmost tip of Alaska’s panhandle. While sitting at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson earlier in the week, I met a couple travelling by RV from Arizona. All three of us were members of the “Sourtoe Club,” an exclusive and close-knit club where membership is gained by drinking a shot of whisky with an actual severed human toe in it. Because of this common and repellent bond, we struck up a conversation.

They mentioned the town of Hyder, saying that it was well worth the diversion. After visiting, I have to agree. The road to Hyder, The Glacier Highway, runs between the sheer cliffs of an amazing canyon on a gradual downhill slope to a narrow armlet of the Pacific Ocean and a port full of floating harvested timber and deep enough for bulk carrier cargo ships. The route winds along past rapids and close enough to glaciers to hear the sound of rushing glacial meltwater.

hyderglaciersmall hydercreek2small

Hyder is unique in its close association with the neighboring Canadian town of Stewart, British Coumbia. There are no American Customs required to enter Hyder, the preferred currency is Canadian, the residents celebrate Boxing Day and Victoria Day and, with a population of only 87, the children of Hyder attend a Canadian school. It was still rainy and misty, but a few degrees warmer and well worth the trip.

After spending the night in this peculiar American outpost, it was back on the road in the rain heading toward Prince George, B.C and continuing onwards toward my Canadian base and initial starting point of Canmore, Alberta.

3 thoughts on “A Foggy, Funky Outpost

  1. Hi Mike, sounds like a great road trip. I am curious about the origin of the severed toes. Is there a thriving black market somewhere?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was curious, too, so I asked the “Toe Captain.”
      The original toe was from a fellow who was caught in a blizzard with his brother and got frostbite. They chopped his toe off to prevent gangrene and preserved it in whisky. Some riverboat captain did a shot of it on a dare and so it started.
      They are on toe number 10 or 11 now. People have stolen them or intentionally swallowed them. Now there’s a $2500 fine for that (you have to sign a form).
      Now the toes are donated. They can’t buy them, because that would be trafficking in body parts. This one was apparently lost in an accident involving open-toed shoes and a lawnmower.


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