Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Matanuska Glacier and Independence Gold Mine

Day 16, July 14, 2008-0 miles. A very good day today. We went to Matanuska Glacier, about 95 miles north east of Anchorage. It is a real live glacier about 15 miles long and approximately 3 miles wide at the terminus.

Going to the glacier, we turned off the main road onto a steep dirt road down to the entrance. A fee is charged for each person, which is collected only after signing a 1.5 page waiver of injuries from being on site. Then the gate is opened and we drove to the parking lot near the glacier. The glacier was in front of us, glistening white behind black dirt mounds. We walked towards the glacier, about a ¼ mile walk down the path.

About 2/3 of the way down the path, I noticed that the “black dirt” was actually glacial debris, dirt and rock being heaved up by the glacier. It was becoming a bit slick as there was more ice than debris to walk on.

A few more yards down the path, it became ice with just small flecks of dirt and debris to reduce the slippage under our feet. One could get hurt! Easily!!

We spotted a picnic table on the ice and gingerly walked to the table to take a few pics and look around. We could see lots of people walking about on the glacier, but I have to believe that they were wearing crampons or something on their boots or shoes to keep from sliding. We were wearing tennis shoes, and they were plenty slippery.

Fortunately, we slowly and carefully walked back to the base of the glacier and then to the waiting car. A neat experience for Gary, his wife, and me.

Then we went to the Independence Gold Mine between the main road and Willow Creek. It is a partly-restored gold mine, the second-largest to operate in Alaska during the 1930s and 1940s. We got there too late for a guided tour, but spent an hour or so looking at the restored buildings and displays. It was a neat thing to see and I enjoyed seeing the heavy machinery used in the mining process.

Finally, we rode across Hatcher Pass, a 30-mile dirt road through the wilderness of the Talkeetna Mountains. It was a great ride, climbing to it's summit at about 3,900 feet. It wound along the edge of the mountains, green and velvety looking in the distance. A small branch, then creek, then river wound its way in the valley between the mountains.

There were scores of beaver ponds and lodges along the way, and at one, we spotted a beaver swimming across his pond with a live limb from a tree that he was taking to store for food in the winter. Never seen a live beaver before, so this was a great treat!

Then the ride over to Willow Creek, then through Wasillia, then back to our base. The weather was perfect; temperatures had moderated and were very pleasant. A mix of sun and clouds sprinkled acorss the skies. A great day indeed!

Tomorrow—day trip to Talkeetna.

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