This past July Jen and I, along with my two grandsons J.T. And Kaleb, embarked on our great 2015 Alaskan adventure. The first day we took in the Talkeetna area, and the second day we set out for Hatcher Pass.

It was a chilly, dreary day which reminded me that the only thing predictable about Alaskan weather is its unpredictability. The ceiling remained low as we left the George Parks Highway at Willow and took the Willow-Fishhook Road to Hatcher Pass. The asphalt soon gave way to a small, unpaved windy road which snaked it’s way about 40 miles through the Willow Creek Valley before reaching the Pass. It’s about another 20 miles, of minimally maintained road, over the pass. The altitude is high enough that the central part of the road is usually closed by snow from late September clear into July. We would have loved to take in the scenery but visibility was so bad we struggled, at times, just to see the road in front of us.

We stopped at what seemed to be the pinnacle of the drive. At the top of this mountain was a small cirque lake (tarn) called Summit Lake. We walked around a bit and climbed to the top of the ridge. It felt as if we were at the very top of the world. I would have loved to camped out and spent the day exploring but we had to get moving so we could take in the main attraction.

Independence Mine

Hatcher Pass is gold mining country going back to 1897, when the first claims were staked. The area has produced over 624,000 ounces of the precious metal. Even today the Alaskan government has set aside a public use area where people come to privately pan for gold. Our main destination for the day was Independence Mine, once a large mining operation; now a state historic park.

The Wasilla Mining Company worked the mines from 1934 to 1943 and again from 1948 to 1950. It was the second largest hard-rock gold mining operation in the State of Alaska. There were sixteen wood frame buildings which once connected each other by sheltered wooden tunnels. Some of the buildings have been well preserved, while others have succumbed to the harsh weather condition. For a landscape photographer, it was paradise.

We were very disappointed, when we arrived, to find very poor visibility. However, as we walked the trails to higher elevations the ceiling began to rise. As we reached the top it was visible enough to, at least, take a few photos of the buildings and the elevated tramway. There were even some mine carts next the closed-up adit. The boys had a great time climbing aboard the tram carts and imagining what it was like back in the day.

As we climbed down the mountainside back to the main buildings, it seemed as if the ceiling followed us down. By the time we made it back into the valley, visibility was about the tip of your nose. While I was hoping for a clear day and lots of great photos, I am thankful the mist broke up and allowed me to bring home a glimpse of the beauty. All in all, the nasty weather gave an interesting spin on the photography as the photos look more vintage, and even haunting.

Awesome day!

Photo Credits:
All photos by John Cripps ©2015 Mojo.Sexy
except two with snow ©Alaska.org