Sunday, March 30, 2014

Alaska: Hatcher Pass


Drove up to Independence Mine and over Hatcher pass today.  I’m sure there’s more than one Independence mine in all of Alaska, but to get to this one you drive SR1 north out of Anchorage until you get to Palmer, then hang a left on Palmer Fishhook Rd which eventually turns into Fishhook Willow Rd. For a bit the road follows Little Susitna River then suddenly takes a hard left up a switchback and starts climbing up the mountain. The Independence Mine historical park is up here a little ways. There's a good walking tour of the mine with several possible side trips around the alpine bowl the mine is located in.

Or, if the road conditions are right, you can keep climbing up through Hatcher Pass, passing the impossibly blue Summit Lake, though the first time you spot the lake you are quite a ways above it so it’s not quite at the summit, before coasting down along Willow Creek and eventually coming out on SR3. Turn left on 3 and it will take you back to SR1 just south of Palmer. 

I once just barely made it through the pass with a 4wheel drive Ford Taurus (Yep, they had them and they were popular with the rent-car companies up here.) with snow-banks towering above my head. On other trips I’ve pulled over along here and just sat down in alpine fields of blooming plants. Whatever the season this is a great place to see.

So it was no surprise that the drive over the pass today was spectacular, but it was also a little crowded.  I didn’t know until I got there but it happened to be the day of an annual foot race that goes up and over the pass. Of course crowed in Boston during the marathon and crowded up here in Hatcher Pass during the Hatcher Pass Marathon and Relay race are two separate things and it wasn't too difficult to make the drive weaving between the widely scattered runners and their supporters.

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