Independence Mine

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June 24th:

This morning, we took a drive up Hatcher Pass, above Wassilla, to the Independence Mine State Park.

The drive was along ice-cold mountain streams, fed by the Mint Glacier.

As we continued to the abandoned mine site, we were in the fog at 4,000ft.

Independence Mine was started in 1905, when gold was discovered in the high mountain valley. The mine did quite well, until WWII, when mining was stopped for the war effort.

The mine started back up after the war, but closed permanently in 1952. The state took over the property, but due to harsh weather and high snow, some structures could not be saved.

We walked among the mine buildings and wandered into some of the restored rooms, such as the superintendent’s home.

We also were able to walk a short distance into the entrance of one mine, that still had ice on the ground.

After lunch, we hiked an hour, up to the 5,000ft elevation Gold Cord Lake.

Even though the clouds were parting and the thin air sun was warm, the lake was still mostly covered with ice.

We had a nice time in the Wasilla / Palmer area and really like the towns.

Tomorrow, we are getting an early start south to Soldotna. We will be staying there for a week.

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Anchorage Area

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June 23rd:

This morning, we drove down to the city of Anchorage. It’s only about 45 minutes from our current RV park location.

We walked around downtown and stopped by the Alaska State Trooper’s Museum.

The small museum was full of artifacts, equipment and information from the 1950’s to current times, of their department.

The troopers started from a back-woods group of officers to a premier team of law enforcement professionals.

We then walked a couple of blocks away to the Museum of Anchorage.

The modern museum brought guests from when the state belonged to Russia to when it was bought by the United States and beyond. The museum has the original paperwork and the U.S. check paid to Russia, for the land.

We also stopped in Eagle River and visited with Donna’s brother and his son.

Tomorrow, we are off to the Independence Mine State Park for some hiking and sightseeing.

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Wasilla & Palmer Areas

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June 22nd:

We were in the high 50’s today with light morning rain. Everything is green and lush, due to the wet summer weather so far this summer.

We visited the Alaskan Museum of Transportation & Industry.

The museum describes how Alaska started with just small trapping camps, to the military, to the railroad and into a modern state it is now.

The buildings and grounds had loads of artifacts, old tools, vehicles and aircraft. It was a very interesting stop for a couple of hours.

Next we drove about 20 miles north-east to the Palmer Reindeer Farm.

At first glance, it appears to be just large pens with Alaska game, but it turned out to be much more.

The 100 year old farm used to be a dairy farm, but 30 years ago, changed to a wildlife education facility. We learned about elk, moose and caribou and their lives and characteristics.

The farm also had a new arrival, a 3 week old baby moose, abandoned by it’s mother in the wild, and brought to the facility by the local rangers.

Tomorrow, we will be traveling to the Anchorage area for the day, visiting family and area sights.

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Palmer, Alaska

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June 21st:

We had a quick drive south on Highway 3 to the town of Palmer.

The area has hundreds of small lakes and is home to many private and commercial float-plane docks.

Palmer is a modern town with all the conveniences of a big city.  It’s also a central location between Wasilla, Palmer and Anchorage.

Being in small towns for the past three weeks, we forgot how much we didn’t miss big city traffic congestion and traffic signals.

We are staying at the Big Bear RV Park. It has full hook-up pull-thru RV sites.

We’ll be staying here for 4 nights and exploring the Palmer / Anchorage area.

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Talkeetna

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June 20th:

We awoke early before breakfast, to travel about 20 minutes to the small late 1800’s town of Talkeetna.

Talkeetna started as a waypost for prospectors and in the early 1900’s, as a railroad stop.

The cruise ship companies still use the depot as a boarding point between the Denali Lodge and Anchorage.

Talkeetna is surrounded by marshes and lakes. We saw several moose just outside of town, eating the grasses. Photo #3 below, is a REAL wild moose, just standing along the road leading to town.

We stopped at the Talkeetna Roadhouse. In the early 1900’s the roadhouse was a warm stop for railroad workers and travelers. Today, it’s a stopover for Denali mountaineers on their way to a summit climb.

The roadhouse is also famous for their sourdough pancakes, which are the size of a large dinner plate!

After breakfast, we did some gift shopping, walked the town and took a ranger led walking tour.

Tomorrow, we are off to Palmer and a several day stop.

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The Alaska Mountain Range

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June 19th:

We left the ‘Cantwell Igloo’ parking lot after breakfast and continued south on Highway 3.

During most of our journey, we followed the Alaskan Mountain Range and it’s many snow capped mountains.

It’s tallest and most famous mountain is Denali (Mt. McKinley). At 20,310ft, it is the tallest mountain peak in North America. It’s still growing at one inch per year.

The locals say that due to weather, Denali is only visible 30% the time to visitors. We were indeed lucky to have a beautiful day on the mountain.

We stopped at the Hurricane Gulch Bridge to take some photographs of the bridge which is 260ft. above the creek.

We also stopped at the Alaskan Military Veterans Memorial, which has a nice large rest area, just off the highway.

We’ve noticed many more cruise ship company buses along this stretch of the highway, buzzing north and south bound between lodges.

There are three ‘lodges’ along Highway 3 that give cruise passengers a taste of interior Alaska, before or after their cruise.

As we were approaching the Talkeetna area, we saw a large moose grazing along the highway.

We are staying two nights at the Mat-Su RV Park just outside of Talkeetna.

The park is quiet and has mostly full hook-up pull-thru sites. It’s currently 65 degrees and light rain is expected in the evening.

Tomorrow we are exploring the area and town of Talkeetna.

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Denali, a Tripod and an Igloo

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June 18th:

We left Fairbanks and traveled south on Highway 3 towards Anchorage. The roads were in very good condition, with several stretches up to 4 lanes wide.

Our first stop was the small town of Nenana, Alaska. They had a nice visitors center and old early 1900’s train depot museum.

Nenana is best known for their river ice break-up contest.

Each February, the town places a large metal tripod on the frozen river ice. They then tie a cable to the shore’s bell tower, which is connected to a clock.

When the ice breaks up and moves the tripod further than 100ft down river, it pulls the cable and triggers the clock.

The city sells raffle tickets all over Alaska and the Yukon and the person who guesses closest to the date & time of the ice movement, wins.

We then continued to the Denali National Park.

We had lunch in the park and toured the visitors center. Since we’ve been in the back-country of the park twice before, we didn’t take the bus tour.

At about 4:00pm, we arrived at our night’s stopover east of Cantwell, at the abandoned Igloo Hotel.

The igloo’s construction was started in the 1970’s and couldn’t pass even Alaska’s lax building and construction codes. The 4 story hotel was never finished inside and has been left to the animals and elements to rot.

Tomorrow we will continue south to Talkeetna, where we will stay for a couple of days.

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