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John Carpenter's


Driving Up the Old Mining Road

The drive up from Stewart to the site on the glacier was 45 minutes
of unbelievable stuff. ... It was just amazing.
(Richard Masur, "Clark")

The bus literally slides and it starts going almost off the mountain.
I thought it was gonna bounce off the mountain, and ricochet, and
throw us off the other side -- there was no guardrail or anything --
and just plummet for a thousand feet.
(Joel Polis, "Fuchs")

Even though the former Outpost 31 site is located in Canada, the local geography makes it so that you must first drive into Hyder, Alaska, and then back into Canada again. We took the 1.5 mile road out of Stewart, crossed the Alaska-Canada border, and had our first look at the quaint little town of Hyder.

Hyder is basically a bunch of homes, couple of motels, and a few souvenir shops all of which are located on either side of a single dirt road. The population is only about 70 people, some of whom live there just during the summer time. When we drove through, there seemed to be more campers and RV trailers than actual town citizens.

In fact, there are no roads that lead from Hyder to anywhere else in Alaska. The only way out is to pass through the small Canadian customs station and head back into Stewart. Since there are no banks in Hyder, the townsfolk actually use nothing but Canadian currency. In other words, for all intents and purposes Hyder is a part of Canada. If you happen to be an American who wants to move to Canada without changing your citizenship, then Hyder is certainly the place for you!

The 26-mile long road was built in the mid 1960s for the Granduc copper mine. It is no wonder that the construction ended up costing millions of dollars since the road is literally carved out of the sides of mountains thousands of feet up. Be very cautious as you drive up the old mining road. There is simply nothing to keep you from going over the side thousands of feet down.

At first, all you can see are the wooded sides of deep valleys but that soon changes as you get closer to the top. The road ends up paralleling the huge Salmon Glacier. The glacier is "only" the fifth largest in Canada, but because of the road it is said to be the best glacial viewing in the whole world. After seeing it for ourselves, we can hardly doubt the claim.

As we look at these pics, we're reminded of what the late Charles Hallahan ("Norris") said as he reminisced about what it was like making the daily drive:

Everyone of us went up every day, and so there were many days
where you just sat around and sort of did nothing except look
at how beautiful it was. ... It's a sequence of images I've never
forgotten, really poweful ... It was just gorgeous.

Our first glimpse of Salmon Glacier

Looking back down the valley from where we came

Long stretch of Salmon Glacier. Notice the mining road cut out of the
mountain side in the upper right corner.

The distance between the mountains on both sides is about two miles

toddsalmonglacier.jpg (41295 bytes)
Todd standing at Salmon Glacier

SPC in an eerie pose. ("Someone in this camp ain't who he's supposed to be.")

Depending on what time of the summer you get there, you may find a large half-frozen lake at the top of Salmon Glacier called Summit Lake. The glacial ice forms a veritable wall that, for a time, keeps the melted snow waters bottled up. Summit Lake gets larger and larger until the pressure is too great for the glacier to keep it in place. The water finally breaks through the ice and crashes down in a large flood onto the glacier below. When we got there, Summit Lake had already drained but you could still see its remnants.

The Outpost site is located down below off to the right of this shot

Finding Outpost #31 !!


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