We decided to take it easy and explore Independence Mine State Historical Park on our last full day in Alaska. In its peak year, 1941, Independence mine produced 34,416 ounces of gold worth $1,204,560. It was closed in January of 1951, after mining nearly 6 million dollars’ worth of gold, and was eventually donated to the State of Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.After exploring the museum, we drove a short way to the Gold Mint Trail in Hatcher Pass. Because Dana is leaving tonight, we figured we had about 4 hours to take in one last hike. The 16 mile out and back trail follows the west bank of the Little Susitna River to its source in the Mint Glacier Valley. We decided we’d have time for about half that. The trail was easy and mostly flat but a bit muddy and tight in spots. Cow parsnip, Alaska’s version of poison ivy, lined the trail on both sides making it difficult to avoid it altogether but thankfully no one seems to have been affected. The river water was a beautiful blue green, similar to the color of the glaciers we’d seen earlier. Beaver dams and lodges were sprinkled along the river but we didn’t see any sign of habitation. There weren’t any trees anywhere around so it’s likely they have moved on to a better location.
After about 3 miles we stopped and picnicked on a medium sized boulder shaped like a loveseat. The sun is out today and the temps in the mid 70’s. Sheltered by the vegetation and towering mountains on our left, there was only an occasional breeze to keep it cool. We hiked out about 4.5 miles before turning back and retracing our steps. A few mountain bikers and hikers with large dogs passed us along the trail. There were also a couple of young women with two or three preschoolers and babies making their way down the path. I can’t imagine thinking that would be a good idea. I had visions of toddlers covered with cow parsnip blisters (ouch!)
While this wasn’t the most memorable hike, it was great to spend the day outdoors with my most favorite people in the world. Tomorrow we’re off to Boulder to get Chandler’s apartment squared away for his senior year. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to hike the Flatirons or the Rockies before returning home on Friday.
Hope you all enjoyed the updates, it’s always more fun to share travel explorations with friends and family.