Stewart, at the end of Highway 37A was our destination for that day. The journey down the narrow glaciated valley surrounding Highway 37A is rated as one of the top drives in North America. There were quite a few glaciers that came very close to the road, with the most spectacular one, Bear Glacier, ending in a small lake near the side of the road. This is normally scenery that one has to hike to, but we were able to drive right up to it. Bear Glacier used to be ice all the way to the road, but Global Warming has caused it to recede about 50 to 70m from the road over the past 30 years.
Stewart is a sleepy town of just over 200 people situated at the end of the Portland Canal, a 90 mile fiord that joins the Pacific. He gold rush at the end of the 19th century is responsible for the initial settling of Stewart by Europeans. Tourism and some mining are the mainstays of the town.
The real end of the highway is another 35 km past Stewart and Hyder, and back into Canada. This gravel road developed for mining exploration goes past Salmon Glacier, the 5th largest glacier in Canada, and probably the largest glacier accessible from a vehicle. This was an incredible well formed glacier and very massive. We had lunch in the camper overlooking the glacier, and the view is one of the highlights of the trip.
The Stewart/Hyder border at very unusual in that there is no US customs office, but there is a Canadian border crossing. While this was the first time we had crossed inot the US without showing any documents, we were subject to a 5 minute search of the camper when we came back into Canada! Hyder is almost a ghost town, and our purchases that day consisted of some fudge, which we were allowed to keep. The search was uneventful, but delayed us from getting back to Stewart for a few minutes. We wee on our way to watch a presentation about the local bear habitat given by a French naturalist who lives in the area every summer. We had not realized that Stewart is northern limit of the White Spirit Bear, the iconic symbol of the BC Central Coast. The existence of this bear resulted in the protection of an area known as the Great Bear Rainforest along the central coastal fiords of BC.
The downtown area of Stewart is slowly being restored to look as it did during the Gold Rush (seems to be a common theme in small town BC). All that was missing were the murals!