On a little adventure to Wyoming: FOSSIL BUTTE NATIONAL MONUMENT

On my way there I had 2 mornings of glorious sunrises to greet me on my drive from Washington State to Wyoming.

Managed by the National Park Service, Fossil Butte National Monument, was established on October 23 1972 and is located in southwest Wyoming. This monument holds one of the largest deposits of freshwater fish fossils in the world from the Eocene Epoch, 34 to 56 million years ago. In prehistoric times, this part of Wyoming was a sub-tropical lake ecosystem with calm waters, lack of scavengers and a fine sediment that all worked together to create conditions perfect for preserving fossils from the Cenozoic aquatic communities of North America.

For over the two million years Fossil Lake covered an area of 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 k) long north to south and 20 miles (32 k) wide of southwest Wyoming. Today less than 1.5% of Fossil Lake is protected and managed by the National Park Service. Fossil Butte National Monument promotes the protection of this world-class archeological heritage. The Monument contains only 8,198 acres (33,180,000 m2) of the 595,200 acres (2.409×109 m2) of ancient lakebed. The Green River Formation’s ancient subtropical freshwater lake bed preserved 27 species of fish, 2 bat species,10 mammal species,15 species of reptiles that include turtles, lizards, crocodilians, and snakes, 2 extremely rare amphibian species have been identified, insects including spiders, dragonflies and damselflies, crickets’ stoneflies, true bugs, beetles, wasps, bees, ants, moths, butterflies and flies and plants. As major indicators of climate, plants are allowing scientists to study the ancient ecology of the Fossil Lake area. 

When fossils were discovered, coal miners in the area dug them up and sold them to collectors. Commercial and private fossil collecting is not allowed within the National Monument, although private quarries nearby continue to produce fossil specimens, both for museums and for private collectors.

There are over 80 fossils and casts on display in the Monument’s Visitor Center and a 13-minute video showing how fossils are found and what has been learned along with interactive exhibits. During the summer, lab personnel prepare fossils in public. Summer activities also include ranger programs, hikes, paleontology and geology talks, and participation in fossil quarry collections for the park. 

The base of Fossil Butte is defined by the bright red, purple, yellow and gray beds of the Wasatch Formation. Eroded portions of these horizontal beds slope gradually upward from the valley floor and steepen abruptly. Overlying them and extending to the top of the butte are the much steeper buff-to-white beds of the Green River Formation, which are about 300 feet thick. 

Quarry programs take place Fridays and Saturdays mid-June through late August between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you wish to learn about the research and help search for fossils, meet at the Nature Trail and hike a half mile (0.8 k) to the quarry. All fossils found during the program are collected and contributed to the site’s scientific research.

There are several maintained hiking trails less than 3-miles (4.8k) long and two-track dirt roads (closed to vehicles) that spur off Scenic Drive. Scenic Drive is paved until the Nature Trail then it becomes a dirt/gravel road continuing to the north boundary of the Monument. All hikes allow visitors to take in the site’s unique landscape and geological features. Remember if fossils are discovered do not disturb them and inform a ranger as to the location, so that a qualified team can investigate and determine how to handle the fossil.

Traveling south to the Mendocino Coast – Days 6, 7 and 8

The final day of my stay at the tiny house was spent with a walk along the coast south. After a quick breakfast I headed out for the 3.9 mile walk I would take today on this sunny but very blustery day. The wind was blowing from the ocean sending the spray of the waves up the bluff face onto the highlands where I was walking.

This rough coastline causes my mind to wander back to the days of the small wooden sailing ships plying the coast. The sailors relying on only the rough crude maps, compasses and shear luck fighting fog, harsh weather, winds, and the powerful ocean currents exploring the coasts for suitable anchorages and calm protected harbors.

Through the day my walk consisted of a changing weather from sunny, windy and cold to overcast, windy and colder temperatures. Late into my walk the overcast gave way to intermittent showers as I walked back to my tiny house.

Packing up my belongings I was to leave in the morning for a 2 day excursion along the coasts of California and Oregon. I was sad to leave this wonderful room and area. I will be back for additional stays here to explore more of the area, north and south of Point Arena.

Leaving early in the morning I experienced rain on and off all morning until I left the Coast Road to head inland to Highway 101. A pleasant drive for the rest of the afternoon I arrived at my first stop for the night in Coos Bay, Oregon and enjoyed a cozy night in an Air B&B named the Itty Bitty Inn.

This wonderful old Roadside Inn was built in 1950 and consisted of only 5 rooms, each with it’s own signature decoration. I loved the room I was in, a very comfy old style design named the Folk Americana Room. Other rooms are themed as The Star Trek – Enterprise Room, The Tiki Cha Cha Room, The Tiki Lounge Room and finally That ’70’s Room. This is a very kitzy place and a place I will stay again if it is available. Friendly people run this outstanding Roadside Inn and are trying to preserve this American treasure, I so support that.

The next day I awoke and left to continue north and my lunch stop at Tillamook Creamery. Visit the Viewing Deck, take the tour, explore the farm exhibit, eat at the Dining Hall and shop for food and gifts in the gift store. This is a Co-Op that has been providing dairy products for 110 years that is owned by the farmers. I enjoy their cheeses and ice cream so for lunch I had the Tillamook Cheeseburger. Consisting of a 6 oz beef patty, house made pimento cheese (Tillamook Monterey Jack, Smoked Cheddar, Pepper Jack, and Cream Cheese), shaved iceberg lettuce, Mama Lil’s Peppers, and special burger sauce on a brioche bun along with a chocolate milk shake.

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Oh my, I was very filled and happy for the rest of my drive north to Astoria, Oregon and along the Columbia River back home later that afternoon.

Traveling south to the Mendocino Coast – Day 4

Well the rain stopped early in the morning while I was still sleeping although heavy rain is expected to start by mid afternoon today. I revise my plans for today to walk the area right around my Tiny House in the Point Arena – Stornetta Unit of the California Coastal National Monument.

Access for day use only this BLM land is situated along a rugged coastline adjacent to the town of Point Arena, offering spectacular views of coastal bluffs, sea arches, the  Garcia River Estuary and sandy beaches and dunes with 8 miles (12.8 km) of marked paths along the Point Arena Lighthouse Trail. I am going to concentrate on the northern section of the trail that leads to the Point Arena Lighthouse. This path will take me on a 6 mile (9.6 km) walk this morning.

It is a beautiful cold blustery sunny morning walking along the coastal bluffs observing the power of the ocean crash against the cliffs below my feet. This is a pretty level easy walk but the mud and water puddles from the last few days of rain has made some of the stream crossings an interesting jump to keep my feet dry.

 

At the halfway point of my walk stands an iconic figure in the landscape, the Point Arena Lighthouse. I have seen it grow in the distance as I have walk toward it. Prominently standing on a jut of land overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a barren windswept promontory surrounded on 3-sides with water. Officially established on September 30, 1869 the Point Arena Light Station #496 was first lit on May 1, 1870. As it is getting late in the morning I have a snack before entering the museum in the Caretakers cottage to view the exhibits on the history lighthouse and the rescues made in the surrounding waters. Enjoy the museum and take the walk up into the lighthouse itself to view the horizon from the top you won’t regret it.

 

As it is close to noon I decide to walk the 2.2 miles (3.5 km) on the paved road back to the room. With sky’s darkening in the distance the dirt path might be a quagmire at the low sections and stream crossings during the return journey if it starts to rain. A pleasant walk without many vehicles on the road I make it back to my Tiny House and proceed to fix a warm late lunch in my kitchen. It was a nice way to warm my body after the chilly walk this morning. Sitting with my book and hot chocolate next to the fire, the rain starts to come down in buckets for the next few hours. What a restful way to spend a vacation, a nice walk in the morning and sitting by a cozy fire warming my chilled bones into the evening.

 

Traveling south to the Mendocino Coast – Day 3

After a restful night listening to the rain all night it starts to calm down as I make my breakfast before heading back north again to the little town of Mendocino, CA. This quaint Victorian town is a very picturesque community on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A high end town it is full of places to stay, eat and shop.

I park on Main Street in front a park to walk the Point Mendocino Trail along the highlands over looking Mendocino Bay and the ocean. A lovely walk on this blustery wet day but well worth the effort. You will overlook a sink hole cave made from erosion from the wave action and Point Mendocino Cave. Again the tide was high and waves were erratic so I stayed on the highlands away from the powerful surf hitting the area that day.

 

I arrive at the north end of this part of the trail and make my way back into town.

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My first stop is Mendocino Jams and Preserves to investigate the items for sale. I find a nice spicy Mango Habenero Jelly I will take home to my sons family and a very good tasting homemade “Robert’s Mendocino Catsup”, made by the owner, I will enjoy myself. I pass many artist shops, tourist trinket shops and restaurants on my way to my lunch destination, Frankie’s. This family-run pizzeria serves specialty pies, salads & organic falafel, plus ice cream & beer. I had the baked Falafel and it was very filling. Although I must say the pizzas I noticed being served to other patrons look delicious also.

Leaving Franki’s I noticed another Mendocino Chocolate Company shop.  I wanted to take a “Pacific Fire” home for my son and have several of the “Surf’s Up Peanut Butter” and “Pacific Fire”chocolates to have for myself during the week. Yes I am a Chocoholic, I love my chocolates.

It was getting late in the day so I returned to my car to proceed back to my place when I stopped to talk with a gentleman that was living out of his Volkswagen Westfalia Vanogon with his wife and 2 dogs. I spent about 45 minutes enjoying my conversation with him as the rain started up again. Saying my good bye I drove the 40 minutes back to the Tiny House for a light dinner and again resting and reading in front of the fire as the rain continued on the rest of the night.

Traveling south to the Mendocino Coast – Day 1

It’s been awhile since my past post although many things happened during the first part of the year with numerous day trips that I really didn’t take photos of, just deciding to enjoy the moment. Now it’s off for more adventures.

First trip this year was a trip south to the Mendocino Coast of Northern California for a week of relaxing, well sort of.

After a quick jaunt down Interstate 5 and then west along Highway 199 I arrived at the coast at Crescent City, CA. Turning south along Highway 101 I reached my first stop for the night in Eureka,CA staying the night at an Air BnB where I had previously stayed, the Colorful Corner. A small quaint private room with a wonderful host who met me at the door and we proceeded to gab away like old friends for about an hour. I had visited this town before and it has some wonderful Victorian Architecture scattered through it.

 

I asked her about a place to eat that I noticed was close to her house and she said it was a great place to eat. Good food and atmosphere. It was a very small place that you should have reservations for but it was still early and I sat at the bar to eat so I got right in.

The Brick and Fire Bistro has an outstanding rustic and cozy vibe. Sitting at the bar I saw directly into the kitchen and was right in front of the wood fire oven. I had a wonderful meal talking to the friendly staff and seeing how the food was prepared was a great benefit for a seat at the bar. I decided on the chicken, brie & asparagus pizza that is served on a classic Italian white crust with pine-nut sage brown butter pesto, roasted chicken, shaved asparagus, red onion, brie & parmesan cheeses which was baked perfectly in the wood fired oven. DELICIOUS.

 

After filling my belly it’s back to the room to sleep. As I was leaving in the morning my host opened her front door and we again talked for about an hour before leaving to continue my southbound journey. What a delightful host and the room is beautiful, well stocked and very clean. I will be back many times here if the room is available when I pass through.

A short dive took me to the town of Ferndale, CA. The town is off the main Highway by a few miles but worth the detour. This small Victorian town is vintage America with an historic Main Street to browse and enjoy a meal. First settled in 1852 it is at the northern gateway to the Humboldt Redwood National and State Parks.

 

Once in the Parks I got off of Highway 101 and proceeded on a parallel road named Avenue of the Giants. This scenic highway is the former alignment of U.S. Route 101 that continues to be maintained as a state highway (State Route 254). A drive among the redwoods that is lined by gigantic trees along it’s 31-mile length providing a much slower more scenic route through the redwoods with many stops for hiking and day use activities. Stopping at the Drury-Chaney grove I took the two and half mile loop from the parking lot wandering along it’s path under the majestic canopy of these large Coastal Redwoods.

 

Back on Highway 101 after that invigorating walk, I continue my route turning on Highway 1 (Shoreline Highway) to my room for the night at Lighthouse Point Resort near Point Arena, CA. The resort is made up of small cottages (tiny houses actually) in a wonderful setting set back from the ocean by about a mile in a grove of trees. There are no entertainment facilities of any kind nearby and limited cell service and no or very expensive WiFi, although there is cable TV provided. But that’s what I so enjoyed about this location, secluded and very quiet where you could unplug from the modern world in a comfortable setting.

 

Days 20 and 21 – Jasper National Park, Icefields Parkway ,Banff National Park and home

Leaving the campsite about 8am it is the final push to Jasper National Park. Stopping behind a long line of cars just minutes from the entry to the park it was discovered that a road closure was in effect from 9am till 11am. Wait it should only be 8:30am, no there was a time change yesterday that proved the undoing of this plan.

IT’S ACTUALLY 9:30

Oh well guess it’s time to climb out of the car and get some stretching done for the morning.

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Finally right at 11am the line of cars starts to move and entering the park it is time to stop at the visitors center located in the town of Jasper.

Jasper National Park is Canada’s largest National Park with 4,200 sq. miles (11,000 sq. km) that lies just north and adjacent to Banff National Park. This beautiful Park consisting of glaciers, ice fields, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and mountains was established in 1907 as a forest park and was provided full National Park status in 1930. Part of the Canadian Rocky’s National Park along with neighbor Banff and 2 other Parks it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

The resort town of Jasper is the headquarters for Jasper National Park with it’s Visitors Center. This year round resort is with complete facilities for it’s guests, a quaint walkable downtown featuring restaurants, hotels and shopping with nearby Marmot Basin Ski Resort. The town was quite crowded with other visitors this Friday so finding a parking spot proved a little challenging. Finally getting parked it was a medium length walk to the Visitors Center to get aquatinted with the park. Moving around inside was a little claustrophobic so the goal was quickly accomplished and then it is off  into the park.

Icefields Parkway

Rated as one of the top drives in the world, Canadian Highway 93, the Ice Fields Parkway, is a 144-mile  (232km) stretch of road winding its way through 2 National Parks with a beautiful landscape rich in history traversing subalpine forests and the Columbia Icefield.

Going south on the Icefields Parkway we come to Athabasca Falls. Flowing from the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, the Athabasca River is the largest river system in Jasper and the 75 foot (23 m) Athabasca Falls. Although not very tall, it’s power comes from the flow of the river and the narrow canyon it traverses making for a spectacular view.

In the park is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains of North America, the Columbia Icefield. It’s 125 sq. mile (325 sq. km) area is in both Banff National park and the adjoining Jasper National Park.

Just past the Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefields is a small campsite for tents only. Pulling in there 2 spots available, so here is home for the night. 

After getting camp set up it was a short walk along the Parkway to the trail head for a 1.1 mile (1.8 k) moderately strenuous hike to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. A fabulous walk to the base of the glacier and you can hike right onto it. If you do not feel like walking you can take a bus from the lodge to the glacier where you get onto a Tundra Bus for a drive out onto the glacier.

The next morning it was an early rise and quick breakfast to head south and hopefully get to a few places before the crowds start to gather.

Banff National Park, Alberta Canada

Established in 1885 this is Canada’s oldest national park. Located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park encompasses 2,564 sq miles (6,641 sq km) of forested, alpine terrain consisting of hot springs, glaciers, ice fields, rivers and waterfalls in a subarctic ecosystem.

Bridal Veil Falls

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Weeping Wall showcases the melt-off from the snowfields emerging form fissures in the cliff face emerging as a series of waterfalls.

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Getting to Lake Louise it was a quick off ramp to see Moraine Lake. Well it was quite overrun with vehicles and people trying to get to the lake for the morning sunrise. It takes 45 minutes to get to the large parking lot which is overrun with cars. If the parking lot is this full the trail to the lake must be just as crowded. Turning around and getting back to the parkway it was discussed and with the final day of the trip being Sunday at Glacier NP along the popular Going to the Sun Highway it was decided to head out of the Banff early and head home as it was only a 10 hour drive. Glacier National Park is relatively close and can be left for another adventure.

Leaving the Icefields Parkway at Castle Junction it was time to head west along Highway 93 to the town of Radium Hot Springs where the highway turns south for the USA Border Crossing. Stopping in Cranbrook I pick up a quick lunch and then it’s off to the border.

It was a 45 minute wait at the border as it was quite crowded. Finally through It’s south on State 95 to Interstate 90, Highway 395 and finally onto Interstate 84 west to the coast and home.

Arriving home at about 10pm I take a quick shower to hose off the few days of grim due to no showers and fall into bed. Unpacking will be for tomorrow, sleep comes quickly as I am home in my bed after 21 days on the road.

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Day 19 – Onward to Jasper and Banff

Getting up in the morning goes a little slow today. It has been a great adventure but many days dong so many things has left me a little tired. After having breakfast and packing up, it’s time to get on the road. Continuing along Highway 16 there is so much to see along this stretch of road from natures wonders to historic sites. I will be back to visit Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, and many of the Provincial Parks along its route.

Crossing back through British Columbia’s 9th largest city, Prince George, the route continues east for Japer and Banff National Parks along BC Route 16, The Yellowhead Highway. Traffic passing through the city is a little strange on my senses, there have been so many empty stretches of roads that all the traffic is hard to come back to. I remember going through Whitehorse, Yukon with the same feeling. So many people it seemed.

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Stopping at the Ancient Rainforest Trail to hike on wooden walkways through an ancient forest located in one of the upper Fraser River Valley’s few remaining antique stands of western red cedar is just jaw dropping. These stands include cedar trees that are 800 – 2,000 years old in an area farther from the ocean than any other temperate rainforest in the world, it feels like being on the west coast, such as Vancouver Island. Huge cedars, all kinds of moss, skunk cabbage, wild flowers, and vibrant green ferns flood your senses. Interpretive signs along the trail explain the forests history, wild life, as well as the plant life.

Along the longer trail you can pass a beautiful 30m (98ft) waterfall named Tree Beard Falls, clusters of colossal cedars known as the Sacred Circle, a cedar called Tree Beard that towers mightily with a display of unusual arms, and then to an especially large based cedar that makes up for it’s lack of height in it’s girth. This last is named Big Tree, being 16 feet (5 m) in diameter it is the largest cedar in the Ancient Forest as it stands in silent vigil beside a fallen comrade.

These resilient inspiring ancient cedars are beautiful in their old age, although broken and falling apart in places, they continue to reproduce and contribute to the ecosystem.

It was the weekend and campgrounds were full in the area. Finally finding a place in the group camping area of Mount Robson Lodge. This open area was in a meadow with picnic tables spread around. It was a little far away from the facilities but very quiet even with all the neighbors around.

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Day 18 – South on Highway 37 on the way to Jasper and Banff

The mornings adventure starts with a drive back into Alaska to visit the Salmon Glacier, the fifth largest glacier in Canada and the largest road-accessible glacier in the world. An approximate 16 mile (25.75 k) dirt/gravel road leads to a marvelous overlook for the glacier located just back into Canada. This glacier is one of hundreds within the Boundary Ranges. This natural hazard has Summit Lake located at the north end of the glacier and every year in summer the lake breaks an ice-dam and the water flows under the Salmon Glacier into the Salmon River. This flooding causes the river to rise approximately 4–5 ft (1.2–1.5 m) for several days. This river flows beside the town of Hyder, Alaska and empties into the Portland Bay.

Marveling in the immensity of the glacier it is time to head back through Hyder and Stewart continuing 134 miles (215.5 k) south on highways 37A and 37 to the Gitwangak Battle Hill Historic Site. This fortress  utilized a strategic location with several different defensive fortifications: rolling things such as rocks and huge logs covered with spikes down the sides of the slopes of the fortress during raids. The Gitwangak people would drop back to this location during raids on the village. The Battle Hill was never lost during battle. Walking along the trail between the parking lot and the top of the Battle Hill is quite a hike. Stairs lead down into the valley the back up the hill with its commanding views. Right before leaving 2 caretakers of the site pulled up and we discussed the importance of this site to the local First Nations Tribe. All of the people we have met on this journey have been so warm and welcoming.

3 3/4 miles (6k) further down the highway is the Gitwnagak Totem Poles set right in the village. Moved several times due to flooding these are the oldest collection of Totems found in their original village anywhere in British Columbia.  These spectacular poles are a sight to see. Luckily a local was walking and the road and spoke with us for about a half hour explaining the poles and the the people in the village. A very memorable experience I will not soon forget.

Turning east on Highway 16, The Yellowhead Highway, we drove for a little over an hour  and it was lunch time. Entering the Alpine Themed town of Smithers we decided on eating at the Alpenhorn Bistro. Why not eat in a themed town at a themed restaurant. Good food was had and off for the final drive of the day to the Shady Rest RV Park just outside of Houston, BC, Canada.

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This RV park had a location for tents adjacent to the RV park. Showers and Laundry facilities are available and the last shower of the trip was a welcome relief. Camping for most of the trip shower and laundry facilities were a little far between which left for many sponge baths along the way. A nice quiet evening and a quick small dinner ending with a quiet nights sleep was well needed

 

 

 

Day 17 – Cassiar Highway and on to Jasper

The Cassiar Highway (BC Route 37) was completed in 1972 to connect the Yellowhead Highway in BC to the Alaska Highway in the Yukon. This 450-mile (742 km) road is a narrow; mostly 2-lane road that traverses some beautiful countryside. There are many side trips throughout it’s length and will be a place I come back to explore.

Left Boya Lake Provincial Park leisurely in the morning . It would just be a road trip day with several stops along the way.

First stop was at Jade City is a roadside community selling Jade products from the nearby mountains. This “spot on the road” and the region around Jade City is rich with a jade precursor called sereninite, greenstone jade look-a-like, and home to 92% of the world’s nephrite jade. As of 2015 ,Jade City’s population was about 30 people. The Cassiar Mountain Jade Store offers free RV parking, free coffee and free wifi and they also sell many jade products made from nearby formations. A reality TV series documented the mining efforts of the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store, and the Bunce family. They mine thehard rock deposits and placer deposits left by glaciers. Claudia Bunce’s father, Steve Simonovic started mining the area in 1985 and the Bunce family has continued mining the area for jade since.

It was an interesting shop with many fine jade collectables inside the shop and some very interesting old vehicles and equipment on the outside. Next to the parking lot was also a large saw they would demonstrate how the rock was cut and processed for later art work.

There are many sites to see along this beautiful road with a few being  the Dease River, Dease Lake that provides all visitor services; lodging, dining, grocery store, and fuel, Mount Edziza (a dormant volcano) and the Skeena and Cassiar Mountains, Willow and Rescue Creek Bridges which are 2 narrow wooden plank bridges along the Cassiar Highway, Iskut River overview, and Bell II Crossing, a metal grate bridge over the Bell-Irving River.

Finally reaching Meziadin Junction which is the turnoff for Stewart-Hyder Access Road (Highway 37A) providing access to the towns of Stewart, BC, Canada and Hyder, Alaska. .  In the area you can visit the Bear and Salmon Glaciers.

338 miles (544 k) from Boya Lake, the camp for the night was at Bear River RV Park in Stewart, BC, Canada. A full service site with RV and tent areas, restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. Laundry was again needed as it had been a few days and this would be the last of these services needed on the adventure. A very quiet place with friendly staff and campers. Stewart is a small town of about 494 individuals located at the head of the Portland Canal in northwest British Columbia. Start is 2 mile (3 k) west of Hyder, Alaska.

Being late in the day it was off to find a nice dinner and it was recommended by a few travelers along the way to stop at a place in Hyder, Alaska named The Bus. The seafood sounded great although it was crowded and being that it was just a husband and wife establishment they were not taking any more orders that day. It was decided to eat at The Glacier Inn that provided good food but the taste buds were really geared up for a meal at The Bus.

If libertarians had an earthly paradise, it would probably be here in Hyder. Separated from American governments and bureaucracies by immense wilderness, Hyder has no property taxes or police, and citizens can carry firearms openly. Yet the village, wedged between two Canadian borders, has long relied on neighboring Stewart, British Columbia, for groceries, electricity and other services.

Heading back into Canada and the campsite, the evening was spent doing laundry showering and reorganizing the vehicle. Tomorrow it will be heading back into Alaska to see the Salmon Glacier and then retracing the route back to make the way south along Highway 37 to Highway 16 , The Yellowhead Highway and to Jasper National Park.