One morning late last May, family members and I visited Fishhook Creek valley in the Talkeetna Mountains near Hatcher Pass, Alaska. While hiking up a mountain on the east side of the creek, I took the photo below looking northwest across the valley.
The image shows paved Gold Cord Road running up the valley from lower left to right, then turning left toward a building with a red roof. I later learned that the red-roofed building and the others to its left constitute Independence Mine State Historical Park. These structures, built in the late 1930s and early 1940s, are the remains of a gold mine in operation until 1951. The red-roofed building is the mine manager’s house, later renovated to become the Visitors Center for the park.
Although the park was not yet open for its summer season, we decided to hike to the mine that afternoon. My daughter and her family, Alaska residents that they are, suggested it would be more fun to hike over ground covered by patchy snow than it would be to walk on the road. So we did, even though this South Louisianian has always found hiking through snow with an unknown substrate rather worrisome.
The shot below shows the view from the starting point of our hike. The creek flowing toward the camera is the East Fork of Fishhook Creek. The straight line distance to the Visitors Center is 3/4 mile.
Twenty minutes into the hike, I decided to turn around to the south and take a photo of where we had been. The result is below. Notice the line of vehicles in the parking lot uphill from the cluster of lodge buildings at the right edge of the image. Our starting point was at the left edge of the parking lot.
Some “watermelon snow” or “pink snow” is seen in the foreground of the above photo. This phenomenon is produced by a species of green freshwater algae that has red pigment and thrives in frozen water.
In the near background of the above image, just beyond the V formed by the downward green slope from the left and the downward brown slope from the right, is Matanuska River Valley. The river can be seen flowing left to right in front of flat-topped Bodenburg Butte in the mist. The butte is about 19 miles from where this photo was taken. The highest peak in front of the clouds to the right of center is Pioneer Peak. An earlier post to this blog has closer photos of Bodenburg Butte and Pioneer Peak.
As we reached the altitude of the mine, the snow on the ground became thicker, more uniform, and trickier (for me, at least) to navigate. But the rewards of the hike were worth it. One of our first sights after reaching the mine was this interesting display of mining machinery. Too bad the park was not yet open. It would have been nice to have a guide’s description of these “ghost” items.
Finally, I include a different view of some of the older buildings at the mine. Given their age, I thought this image format might be appropriate.
As satisfying as this hike was, it left us with a desire to return to Independence Mine State Historical Park when it is open for guided tours. Unfortunately, our Alaskan itinerary last year ended too early to do so.
Hover your mouse cursor over any marker in the map below to see which photos were taken at that location.