The girls and I took a 3 day camping trip last week...we had so much fun! We left on Sunday and we camped at the South Rolly Lake campground. Since we weren't there on the weekend it was very empty and pretty quiet. It's 6 miles from the highway which was so nice...no traffic noise! It's still light until around 11pm right now, so Sunday night there was a family playing volleyball until nearly 11 and falling asleep was hard for all three of us. It rained during the night and showered on Monday so I decided it would be a good day for a car-based adventure. I've wanted to explore Hatcher Pass for several years now and we were within 3 miles of the turn off so we went for it!
I think people more often do the loop starting from Palmer and ending in Willow, but since we were so near Willow we did it the opposite way. It really was a beautiful drive! A good portion of it is unpaved, but the road was in good shape so it really wasn't a big deal to us. We spotted this mama moose and her baby having some breakfast just a little ways out of Willow.
The road follows this creek (which I believe is named Willow Creek) most of the way up the valley. It's an active mining area, so there are lots of signs warning you off of personal mining claims. There are also lots of beautiful bends in the creek like this one.
That big pile of gravel coming down the hill is an old mine. In person you could see the little hole in the side of the hill. The tops of the mountains are so jagged! Pictures just don't do it justice!
At the very top we stopped at Summit Lake. Very pretty!
It was a great place to get out and walk around the lake. From the parking area you can also look down at the road you've taken up the hill.
From Summit Lake you turn and head back down the next valley which eventually leads you to Palmer. Before you head down though, you can stop at the Independence Mine. This place was so amazingly cool!
The mine was opened in 1934 and operated until 1943 when it was ordered closed as a result of WWII. It opened again briefly in the late 1940's and closed permanently in 1951. In 1980 the donation of the mine lands and buildings to the state became official and it was designated a state park area. Some of the buildings have been restored, others are in the process, and still others had collapsed in the 30 years it lay abandoned.
The park offers guided tours, $6 for adults and $3 for kids. This was money well spent! The tour takes you inside of the mess hall, the apartment 4-plex built for mine engineers and such, and one of the bunkhouses. The guy who led our tour lives onsite and was the best kind of tour guide. You could tell he really loves his job, where he lives, and the history of the place. He was happy to answer questions and hung around after the tour and chatted with folks for quite awhile. I took *so many* pictures while we were here, but here's one of my very favorites. If you'd like to see all of the rest they are on Fotki.
After the mine we headed back down and into Palmer. I wanted to go to the Colony House Museum, but no luck. I always try on a day they are closed! I think the whole Matanuska Colony endeavor is so interesting!! Instead we went to the Palmer Museum and Visitor's Center. Scott and I had been here before, but the kids hadn't. They had this fun area where the kids could try on hats from the late 1930's and floursack dresses!
There is also a community garden onsite where the kids got to see a giant cabbage growing and a rhubarb plant that was as tall as they were!
We made it back to camp in time to roast some hot dogs for dinner and have some tasty s'mores for dessert!
Nutella instead of Hershey bars for s'mores...one of my best ideas ever!!