At the southwest end of the Talkeetna Mountains (which also house Denali) Hatcher Pass is under two hours from Anchorage. There, one can hike, ski, bike, kayak, rock climb and more amongst granite, creeks, and rivers. The pass is closed until July. Sighting past the locked gates it looks like a little slice of heaven up there.
Independence Mine sits below the pass in what’s called the Willow Creek Mining District.
1906 marked the first efforts at Placer Mining. Flakes of gold eroded from veins of quartz, washing down into streams. If men were lucky, they found their way into their pans.
The search for the “Mother Lode” inevitably followed, AKA “Hardrock” mining. Necessitating tunnels, heavy equipment and lots of labor, companies formed. The Alaska Free Gold (Martin) Mine on Skyscraper Mountain and Independence Mine on Granite Mountain merged, becoming Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Company (APC). With a block of 83 claims spanning 1,350 acres plus and home to 27 structures the men blasted out 12+ miles of tunnels.
Note the terrain. What an accomplishment that was.
Here’s a pic looking down onto the mine and another above it from a steep hike to a pleasant perch. All the silver-colored buildings far below comprise the Independence Mine. I forgot the name of the plain-colored mine in the foreground:
In its peak year, 1941, APC employed 204 men and produced 34,416 ounces of gold worth $1,204,560 at the time. These days that’s translates to $17,208,000. Whoa.
Looking up from below the buildings using binoculars, I spied tram stations, tunnel portions, buildings on the very tippy-top skyline and talus piles. Those miners must have been part mountain goat to work at such heights.
From what I read while checking out the buildings, it seemed a pretty mellow place (unlike Bodie, CA.) The men lived in bunkhouses. Women were not allowed in camp. “Boomtown,” a collection of 22 families, lived just up the road. A male teacher was brought in (per the people’s request) to deal with surly children. One woman wrote she left Boomtown maybe once a year and ordered most of her supplies via the Montgomery Ward Catalog. Imagine the isolation? I wonder if she felt lonely?
There isn’t much of the mill left but one can see how the building flowed downhill, using water and gravity to complete the process of sifting apart the ore.
A wee closer in:
Hoofed it up past the upper mine to the top of a hill (right behind the top of the brown structure in the photo below.)
Behind me, a horseshoe of granite wrapped around, housing a hidden lake another abandoned mine (with newer buildings). and a tiny chalet-like structure that had ski tracks leading to it. A Forest Service hut perhaps? A private building?
Check out the chalk on this boulder:
Saw some really short bolted routes on the walk back down. The Anchorage area is not know for rock climbing. Sure miss CO for that fix.
This is a beautiful area!
I plan to return and take this route when I head to Denali in a month or so. Updates on future travels later.