Sunday, July 31, 2011

Independence Gold Mine

Saturday, July 30
Wasilla is pretty much a suburb of Anchorage although it takes 45 minutes to get back to Anchorage. All the big stores have a spot in Wasilla - Target, Lowe's, Walmart, pizza hut, etc. We met some Minnesota folks on our cruise in Seward, they suggested we drive to Hatcher Pass while we were in this area, so off we went! On our way up the mountain we passed several riders who were participating in the Alaska Challenge hand cycle race. It was a 7 stage race, this was their sixth day.

Independence Mine State Park, near Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Mtns, is an old hard rock gold mine. Hard rock mining is when the gold is in granite and other rock and the rock has to be crushed before the gold is recovered. This mine was open from @ 1937 to 1943 and then closed during WWII. They tried to reopen in the early 50's, but couldn't make a profit so it was abandoned until the 80's when it was donated to the state of Alaska. They have done some renovation on the building's foundations and roofs and now offer tours and several nice hikes. It was an interesting afternoon. 
     The clouds rolled in and out and in again while we were at the mine, so we had to make a decision about driving through the pass which is advertised as "an old time Alaska road--narrow, bumpy, dirt, and gravel" for 20+ miles. Well, it didn't really take too much to decide, of course we went! Jean and Bob have done some gold panning, so we borrowed a couple of pans from the campground. There were several places to pan on the road up to the mine, but we decided to get there and do our panning on the way down the mountain. Funny thing, while there were several spots that looked good, but they each had signs "No Mining", along with posted permit numbers for "Active Mining".  Apparently there were active claims, and we saw several creekside mining camps. Oh well, we'll have to try somewhere else! Stopped at Summit Lake, a beautiful glacial moraine lake at the pass. While we were there we watched a young guy parasailing from the parking area down into the valley.  We stopped for pizza in a little deli in the town of Willow. Back to Wasilla for another evening of cards and a good night's sleep!
     This morning (Sat) we packed up and drove to Talkeetna.  We got in about 1:30, set up the camper and headed over to Trapper Creek.  The two towns aren't more than about 5 miles apart, as the crow flies. But the Susitana River runs between them, so you have to go back 15 miles from Talkeetna and then north again on the Parks Highway another 15 miles to get to Trapper Creek.  We mentioned earlier that we met a young musician who was playing today at the Trapper Creek Fireweed Festival and we wanted to hear him play.  Well, this festival is billed as a family affair - there were some crafts & foods for sale, lots of kids "hands on" activities like painting pottery, learning to start a fire (survival skills) and making native music sticks.  There wasn't a beer to be had! But there were several good musicians, so we listened to that most of the afternoon, our new friend, Paul, played as well.  Nice afternoon of music and people watching!  A very local feel to the afternoon.
     So we're back in the campground in Talkeetna for the night.  Jean and I are both going to look at pictures and maybe we can post this tonight.  We have WiFi here, and will be here for one more night.  Then we are off to Denali and I have a feeling we'll be off the grid for a few days!

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