Back to Civilization

On June 30, we drove 275 miles from Valdez to Palmer, Alaska, just north of Anchorage.  Palmer is a unique community, in that it was originally established by the government during the Depression by 20 welfare families from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.  They were given land and homes and homesteaded in what is now a beautiful farming area.  We visited one of the now restored homes and had an opportunity to talk with one of the children of the original homesteaders.  We also had a chance to talk with Pam Flowers, an "dog musher" and author who traversed 2,500 miles along the edge of the Arctic Ocean from Alaska to Hudson Bay.

While camped at Palmer, we visited Hatcher Pass State Park, which is home to the remains of the Independence Mine, a gold mine that operated until the late 1940's.  This is a huge complex that is nestled into an area with steep slopes.  The state is in the early stages of restoring many of the buildings.  We hiked the area, covering at least three miles and climbing over 500 feet to see the entire facility.

On July 2, we drove a quick 35 miles to Anchorage RV Park, on the north side of town.  This is one of the prettiest parks we have stayed in, with large, mostly wooded campsites.  Anchorage is still a relatively small city, still much as we remembered it from 23 years ago, but, like many of the towns we have visited, it has amenities that are out of proportion to their size.  The Hood Lake Floatplane base has been expanded, but, surprisingly, you still drive across the taxiways from the lake to the Anchorage International Airport without restriction. 

On Monday, July 6, we took a day trip to Whittier, near the Portage Glacier.  This is about a 75 mile drive southeast of Anchorage, along the Turnagain Arm and past the Portage Glacier. Whittier is on the east site of the Kenai Peninsula, on Prince William Sound, and is a port of call for some cruise ships.  Up until a few years ago, you couldn't drive to Whittier.  It was only accessible by boat or train.  In 2000, they adapted the 2.5 mile train tunnel for auto traffic, but it is a one-way pattern, which changes direction every half hour and is held up for trains.  Kinda weird. 

Equally strange is the town of Whittier.  Year-round population is only a couple of hundred people, which swells to about 1,000 in the summer.  There is also a marked change in weather from the west side of the tunnel to the east.  It was cool and cloudy on the west side of the tunnel. On the east (Whittier) side it was cold and rainy, with a ceiling of onlya couple hundred feet.

Our weather, overall, has been really good.  It was still pretty smoky when we arrived in Palmer, but the winds have changed and the smoke has all but disappeared from the area.  We've had a mixture of clouds and sunshine, typical of this area.  Temperatures have been in the high 60's and low 70's -- short-sleeve and jeans weather, which is fine with us.

On Wednesday, July 6, we head for Homer and some Halibut fishing!

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Book Signing

Dog musher Pam Flowers signs one of her children's books for Sue and "you know who."

Musk Ox

Sue tries to make friends with a "baby" Musk Ox on a reserve in Palmer.

The Independence Mine

Overview of a huge abandoned gold mining complex in a state park near Palmer.

More Mine

The setting for the Independence mine has an Alpine appearance.

Old Structures

Although badly deteriorated, Alaska is restoring many of the structures at the mine complex. They have a way to go on this one.

Sue and Jo Lynch

Near the peak of our 500' hike up the hills near the Independence mine.

Our Campsite in Anchorage

We had a large campsite in a very nice campground just north of Anchorage.

Fourth of July Cookout

Bob Lynch and Jim in a holiday cookoff.

Anchorage from Above

A panoramic view of the Anchorage skyline. Anchorage International Airport is on the left, downtown Anchorage on the right.

Float Plane Base

The Hook Lake/Lake Spenard float plane complex is home to hundreds of planes and is adjacent to Anchorage International Airport.

Salmon Fishing

On Ship's Creek, near downtown Anchorage. This photo was taken around 10:00 PM.

Downtown Whittier

On the northeast corner of the Kenai Penninsula, now accessible by road through a 2.5 mile one-way railroad tunnel.