Independence Mine, Hatcher Pass

Trip Start Jul 02, 2008
Trip End Sep 12, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Saturday, August 30, 2008

Our original plans for Friday were go see the bore tide up the Turnagain Arm and to get ready to leave for Dawson City, YT, on Saturday.
Still don't understand bore tides, but there seem to be very few, maybe 2, places in the world where they happen and the only place in the U.S. is Turnagain Arm. The one up the Turnagain was supposed to be about 4:30, so we had plenty of time to work on packing the camper and getting ready for our next adventure. We got busy picking raspberries and strawberries out front and sorta missed the time we should have left for the bore tide. Warren, however, came up with a wonderful secondary adventure for the day. We went up the Hatcher Pass road to the Independence Mine Historical Site.
Now, I ask those of you who know me well, what better place to take me than a historical site?
To get to Hatcher Pass, we went north to the Mat-Su Valley and bypassed Palmer (because of the state fair) to the Palmer-Fishhook Road. According to the 2008 Milepost the junction of the Palmer-Fishhook Road and the Glenn Highway is about 50 miles. The Fishhook Road goes up the canyon for the Little Susitna River and is a very nice, paved road. Unlike a lot of the rivers up there, the Little Su is actually quite clear, even though it heads in the Mint Glacier (and travels 110 miles to Cook Inlet).
The road is paved until you reach Independence Mine State Historical Park and then it becomes gravel as it goes over Hatcher Pass. The road traverses the tundra and eventually (49 miles later) connects with the Parks Highway north of Willow.
Our goal was Independence Mine and all I can say is WOW. It seems as if you are at a much higher elevation because timberline is so low in Alaska, but Independence Mine sits at only 3,500 feet above sea level. It is surrounded by these majestic and craggy peaks. The area is very popular with snowmobilers and cross country skiers in the winter, but I can't imagine what winter must be like up there.
Alaska Pacific Consolidated Mine Co., a large gold production company in the Willow Creek mining district, operated the mine from 1938 through 1941 (when gold mining was considered a nonessential operation during WWII). Many of the buildings are still standing, although the mill and many of the sheds and work buildings are in shambles. It is way cool and I have no idea how long I spent wandering around and taking pictures.
The manager's house serves as the visitor's center for the site. Paved pathways and interpretive signs lead you to the different buildings and areas of the site. All of the buildings are of wood and, with the exception of the manager's house, are painted with two coats of aluminum paint. The interiors of some of the buildings are furnished as "in the day," but aren't open. The assay office is open to walk through and has some of the equipment in it.
The views are extraordinary - but I'm sure the land can also be pretty unforgiving.
Piper went with us and managed to find 2 different parka squirrels to investigate, one by the main house and one in a culvert by the parking lot.
Coming back through Palmer, I finally got to see the top of Pioneer Peak. It had been cloud topped when we in Palmer for the fair on Wednesday.
On the way into Eagle River, we went up on Skyline Drive for views of Anchorage and Eagle River. The sun was setting over Knik Arm and waaaay out in the distance, in the haze, was Denali. Warren said he thought it was about 200 miles away. Unfortunately, this is probably going to be my only actual sighting of the big mountain. I cannot imagine what it must look like up close. {{{{Sigh}}}}
Once again, the sunset was the beautiful end to a glorious day!
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