One Man's Alaska

Day 9: Hyder, Alaska and Stewart, British Columbia

March 16, 2010

I thought I'd enjoy this day off, so I drove over to Hyder, Alaska, which is about a mile or two west of Stewart. There's only one road into Hyder, and there's no U.S. border guards as you drive into Hyder, though there is a Canadian customs stop on the way back into Stewart.

I must have spent four or five hours in Hyder this afternoon, first talking to Wes at the general store (along with a few customers), and then a shorter talk with Mike and some other people at the post office. I heard many wonderful stories about the local area, and thought about the need to write a book to capture these stories.

It was a really wonderful afternoon of just talking, as the road to the glacier -- which I was hoping to travel again -- was closed. The winter here has been very mild, so I thought it might be open, but it was not.

Coming back into Stewart

With only the one road in and out of Hyder, I assumed that crossing the border back into Stewart would be easy. Yes, they do have a Canadian customs office there on their border, but they watched me drive into Hyder, and how much damage could I do?

Well, 75 minutes after coming to the Canadian custom's office, I was grilled repeatedly about why I was here, two agents had torn my car apart, and not bothered to re-pack it as neatly as I had it originally.

One agent in particular kept asking me why I was here, and he kept using the word "here" in different contexts -- meaning either Hyder, Stewart, British Columbia, or Canada in general -- so while I didn't mean to cause him any problems, I had to keep asking him what he meant by "here", which seemed to keep making him more mad.

After this constant grilling, he said that if he was the custom's agent in Sumas, where I originally came into Canada, he wouldn't have let me into the country, but since I was coming back into Canada from Hyder, he didn't have much choice, and had to let me in. He told me I needed to be out of the country in ten days, and finally let me back into Stewart.

I can certainly appreciate the concern for national security, but this seemed a little over the top to me. But if I haven't mentioned it before, I have a great respect for traveling through someone else's country, so I cooperated fully with them, answering every question they had as accurately as I possibly could.

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