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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Let there be light!

Thursday 8/29/19
After breakfast we packed a lunch and returned to the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Area to try to see a bear catching salmon.  After visiting with the rangers and watching the fish for a couple of hours (no bears), we left for the Salmon Glacier.   Just a little ways past the Observation Area the pavement ends and it is a 17 mile dirt road up to the Summit Viewpoint.  The Salmon Glacier is the 5th largest in Canada.  The road up to the Summit followed along the glacier for a good ways and there were several spots to stop along the way for pictures.  After enjoying the views and taking a few pictures, we had our picnic lunch up at the Summit Viewpoint.  

On our way back we stopped to visit the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Area again.  There is a board which displays bear sightings and it did not show any bear yet for the day.  So on down the boardwalk we went searching for bear.  About an hour after we got there someone saw a black bear catch a fish and scurry back into the brush.  Of course we were on the other end of the boardwalk and missed it.  We continued watching and waiting when someone saw a bear cross the road and was heading toward the creek.  We quickly made our way down the boardwalk to wait for the bear and did catch a glimpse of it in the brush though it did not come all the way to the creek.  So much for watching bear fish for Salmon.  Kind of like all the Moose in Alaska, it is a tough act to catch.
It was interesting to watch seagulls eat the fish eggs.

Friday 8/30/19
This is our moving day and it is the start of Labor Day Weekend.  The forecast for the activity of the Northern Lights shows a good chance to view the lights the next couple of nights.  So we want a spot with no ambient light or clouds to increase our chances of seeing the lights.  The Meziadin Lake Provincial Park is a short drive from Stewart and has campsites available.  Since we do not have a reservation we will try to snag a “walk-in” site so need to get there early and it will be less than an hour drive.  Every park is different and you never know what size site you will find or how many trees with low branches will be encountered.  So Cindy left first in the truck to scope it out.  Forest followed shortly after with the plan being to wait just inside the park for “yes or no” on the sites.  We figured there would be no cell service, no not as easy as being able to just call with a report.
On the way up Hwy 37-A Cindy saw a black bear on the road!  A quick picture, though not great, was her proof.
As it turns out, the entrance to the park left no area to pull over in the coach, so Forest needed to drive on in.  And guess what?  HE saw a black bear just after he entered the park.
Two separate vehicles and we BOTH saw a bear!
Cindy was making the loop and came upon the park ranger.  He pointed out 2 “un-reserved” sites and even gave her a reserved tag to hang on the post.  Now to find Forest and bring him in.  Not finding him by the road and not knowing he had entered the campground, it was a game of chase.  Driving around the three loops we finally found each other and were able to get parked in site #33 without too much trouble.  Nice site overlooking the lake, until someone parks across from us.  Looks like a good spot to stay a few days.
The weather was perfect (well a little on the warm side for Forest).  Clear skies and no wind.  We have bacon in the fridge and it is time to cook it.  What’s better than frying up some bacon in a campground.  So we pulled out the stove and fried up bacon and eggs for lunch.  That is a real treat!

Saturday 8/31/19
We spent several hours over a two day period watching the Salmon spawn and looking for bears in Hyder, Alaska.  In Hyder we were looking down into Fish Creek where the Salmon had reached their destination.  The Salmon’s life cycle takes the mature Salmon on a journey back to where they were hatched to give life to the next generation.  Once the eggs are laid and fertilized the adult Salmon die.  So at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Area there is the smell of dead fish.  
To close out August we drove out to visit the Lax An Tok Meziadin Fishway.  This viewing would be different.  This location brought us to a fish ladder where we observed the Salmon working really hard to make their way up the river to reach the creek where they were hatched.  It was fascinating to watch them jump out of the water in an attempt to reach the top of the waterfall to allow them to continue swimming upstream.  One can only wonder how fast they can swim to be able to jump so high and far.  There is a fish-counting station at the fish ladder where they determine the catch limits.  There is also a 1st nation fish camp where they catch salmon by dip net.

This was a beautiful area and NO smell of dead fish!
We then hiked down to the convergence of two rivers.  The hike was down a path thru the trees.  You do not want to startle a bear when walking through the woods.  So it is recommended you talk or sing as you walk along.  OH, if you should happen to meet up with a bear, do NOT make eye contact with the bear.  No worries, we did not see one this day.

About midnight we got up and went outside to look for the Northern Lights.  Looks like we may see a show, so we loaded the camera in the truck and headed out of the campground.  The best chance to see the Aurora Borealis is in a dark area and unfortunately lots of people leave outside lights on in the campground.  We drove out to the entrance for the campground and parked right along the side of the road.  It was DARK, which we needed, and no traffic.  Great!  There were some clouds which we hoped would blow past us, we could see clear patches of sky filled with stars.  The forecast for the Aurora showed a very good chance to see an active sky.
Before long we began seeing bright patches and bright streaks in different areas, time to start putting the camera to work.  “Look, over this cloud” “Look, over that tall tree” “Look, straight up the road on the horizon” over and over we saw changes in the sky.  “WOW did you see that?”  Suddenly there was a burst straight from the horizon, up and over us.  Again and again!  WOW!  It was like being at a 4th of July fireworks show, waiting for the next rocket to fire.

We had been enjoying the show for quite a while before we heard a truck coming down the highway.  The night was so quiet it was disappointing to hear the silence broken.  We backed away from the edge of the road and stood close to our truck, covered our eyes from the oncoming headlights, and waited for him to pass.  My hope was that he would not turn around to see if we needed assistance, and he did not.  Once he had passed and his lights were out of sight it was time to put the camera back to work.  We enjoyed more light shows before the sound of another vehicle broke the night silence again, then another.  They were becoming more frequent and the lights were quieting down.  Time to call it a wrap.  We loaded back up and headed for home.  We were quite surprised to see it was 2 am and had enjoyed the Aurora for two hours.  We had no idea we had been outside enjoying the light show for that long.  What a way to welcome in September!

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