Alaska Day 6 - Northbound: Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine
Independence Mine State Park Travel Blog› entry 710 of 1090 › view all entries
We woke up with the type of weather which is way more common for Seward than the weather we had so far: heavy clouds and ditto rain! Boy were we lucky, today would be another travel day, if we had had this type of weather in the past days, we would not have seen anything we saw. We went to buy our famous take out breakkfast in the local Safeway, the supermarket that sells almost anything: hot breakfast, fresh salads, huge marshmallows, and..... even the 2012 Sarah Palin Calendar!
Seward granted us one more or less dry breakfast at the shore of the Resurrection Bay in one of the covered activity halls of the camp site. Even with clouds the bay looked beautiful. With that in mind we set off for a 295-km (184-mile) journey, back to Anchorage and then on to the north to the Hatcher Pass.
The Hatcher Pass is a 64-km (40-mile) long dirt road from the Parks Highway (see tomorrow's blog entry) to the Willow Valley near the city of Palmer. We headed for the Palmer part of the pass, and only for the very last 10 miles of paved road at an altitude of about 1000 meters (3500 ft). Here we had booked us a cabin in the Hatcher Pass Lodge. The lodge is located in the middle of nowhere in the Alps-like meadows of the Talkeetna Mountains. My description middle of nowhere, is not completely true. Only 60 years ago, the area just one mile away and 150 meters uphill housed hundreds of men and some families. All working in the Independence Mine.
The Independence Mine was one of Alaska's most successful gold mines. It all started in1906 with Robert Lee Hatcher discovering scattered gold patches in quartz veins of hardrock found in the brook running below Skyscraper Mountain.
In 1974 the site made its way into the National Register of Historic Places a few years after that the lands were donated to the Alaska Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation which established Independence Mine State Historical Park.
Our journey from Seward to Hatcher was a make up for the good weather we had so far. We were treated on a lot of rain and a lot of clouds! A quick stop was made in Anchorage to refill the car's tank with relatively cheap Achoragian fuel and our stomachs with some junk food. When we reached the lodge and checked our assigned cabin we found out that the cabin had not been serviced yet. While the staff took care of that we briefly visited nearby Summit Lake on the dirt road section of the Hatcher Pass.
Dinner in the Lodge was expensive but pretty good. Sitting in front of a coal powered stove we overlooked the tundra like valley. Dinner was early and sun set is late and, to our delight, the rain stopped so we decided to head out to the mine site.
We reached the Indepence Mine site walking a small trail through what once had been Boomtown. Some rotten fundaments of the cabins and rusted barrels were silent evidences of the town's existence. The site of the mine was very impressive. The restored houses looked higher than I expected. The collapsed mill structure was indeed in a very much evolved stage of decay but it still gave a pretty good idea how it looked like. Surprisingly enough the fragile Indiana Jones like rail tracks of the carts delivering ore into the mill were still standing. While the twilight set in, we were the only two persons in the ghostly site. Very spooky, but so cool!
Some nice historic pictures are in the Alaska's Digital Archives, they are copy righted so I did not add them to my blog. Just follow the links here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for some of them.
More (of my own) pictures below! (Some of them were taken the next day, but were added here for completeness).