Our absolute favorite thing to do in the Pamer/Wasilla area was to explore Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Mountains.
In 1906 Robert Lee Hatcher staked the first gold claim in the Willow Creek district. Gold contained in quartz veins within solid rock is called “hard-rock” or lode gold. With the discovery of the Hatcher claim, gold mining switched from panning in the streams to digging underground. In 1937, construction began on the Independence camp and mill which later became Independence Mine. By 1941, the Independence mill, camp, and mine employed 206 men and 16 families who recovered 140,000 ounces of gold before the mine was shut down in 1943 after gold mining was classified as nonessential during World War II. In 1974 the Independence Mine was placed into the National Register of Historic Places and in 1981 was dedicated as a Historic Landmark. Today Independence Mine is open to the public to explore and learn what life was like for the miners and their families back in the 1940s.
There are several trails and plenty of buildings to explore. We only had two hours before the gates closed so we kind of rushed through the Independence Mine.
I always find it interesting to compare the cost of living then to the cost of living now.
The Visitor Center closed forty five minutes after we got there so we quickly borrowed a few gold pans and tried our hand at panning for gold in the stream that ran through the Independence Mine area. We didn’t find any this time, but we aren’t giving up!
Some of the buildings have been preserved so nicely,
while many other buildings have fallen into ruins. It made a very interesting hike.
The photo above gives you a good idea of the landscape and how the Mine was dotted about the natural land formations.
There were views in every direction.
This is the only tunnel left. You can walk to the back of it and feel the temperature drop several degrees. I believe it was called a water tunnel.
The train tracks had long ago fallen.
It looks like when the Mine was closed down the residents just got their belongings and left without any thought to the supplies left in the shops.
This is an old train. The carts could dump things to the front or to the side.
We had to hurry through the gates before they closed for the night. If you’re unlucky enough to get stuck there they impound your car and it’s a very long walk back to the RV Park.
A few days later we came back to Hatcher Pass to explore the Summit Lake State Recreation Area where you can drive to nearly 4,000 feet above sea level on a winding dirt road to be rewarded with an alpine tundra meadow. There were several hiking options. We chose the April Bowl Trail.
The April Bowl Trail climbs up to a height of 4,811 feet.
It was a steep, rocky climb!
The path takes you right by a lovely turquoise tarn called April Bowl.
Once we got a little higher we saw more of April Bowl and noticed there’s still snow and ice around one of the little ponds. Excuse the water drops on the lens…it started sprinkling on us.
The views from the top were stellar!
We were rewarded with 360° views.
On the way back down we stopped to play in the snow.
And, of course, there were the flowers!
There were flowers everywhere.
Flowers and moss, but no grass. It was really…spongy walking around the alpine meadow.
This is the final post about the Palmer/Wasilla area. We had the best time in this area and we’ve all decided we’ll have to come back to this area if we ever get to come to Alaska again.
See y’all on the road!