Monday, July 23, 2007

July 21 - Hatcher Pass

July 21 – Hatcher Pass

The weather was sunny, 72* and no wind – a gorgeous day. We decided to take a drive to Hatcher Pass. We have already been there once since I arrived, but I can tell it is going to be one of my favorite places. Hatcher Pass is one of the most beautiful and scenic parts of the Mat-Su valley. It is just 15 miles from our house. You follow the Little Susitna River on the way up to the Pass. The water tumbles down from the mountain because of fresh glacier melt. There was hardly any traffic from either direction when we drove up the road. You could hear the cottonwoods in the breeze and the water falling over the rocks in the river. We stopped several times just to enjoy it.
We stopped at Deception Creek Campground. They have primitive camping at this site. They do have picnic tables and fire rings and you can camp right above the river. We stopped for a few minutes and were jealous of the campers, as we smelled the bacon and eggs on their camp stoves. Those of you who are campers will know what I mean.

The picture ibelow the beaver lodge picture is a shot of the valley that we took from the Pass. If you look at the bottom of the picture, the valley and our towns are at the bottom of the Pass.

We continued up the Pass and turned west on the road that follows Willow Creek. This road follows the route of the wagon trail that was built to service the goldmines along the creek. It is not maintained in the wintertime. Those two statements should give you an idea about what sort of a road it is. You need to drive slowly on it, which is very good. Otherwise you would not be able to enjoy and appreciate the phenomenal scenery (remember-I am trying NOT to overuse the word “awesome”).
We saw some old abandoned mines on the hillside. We also saw an active, working mine. A helicopter would swoop down to the mine at the bottom of the hill, hover for a few minutes, then lift back to the top of the hill. It had a rope or ladder-like thing hanging form the bottom of the helicopter. It would then hover at the top of the hill and then come back to the mine at the bottom with a large box attached to the rope. We didn’t know if they were actually hauling ore to be processed at the mine or what they were doing.

We stopped at Summit Lake and the nearby “Nixon’s Nose” (that is where we had our picture taken). We met a man from Canada who was there with his daughter. She was waiting for the wind to shift so she could paraglide off of “The Nose”. It is a popular paragliding spot. But the wind has to be just right, because they are no roads for your people to pick you up if you head off in the wrong direction.

As we descended the summit we saw people whom we thought must be panning for gold in the creek. We also saw lots of beaver lodges and dams (no beaver, though). The trees are so straight and they grow like weeds. In a month, there will apparently be zillions of blueberries growing here. We didn’t know which ones were the blueberry bushes yet. Lots of folks go there to pick fresh berries. We saw no wildlife here (except a few chipmunks). But the bears know when the salmon are gone and the blueberries are ripe. They will move back to the Pass when it is blueberry time. There is talk of developing this area and making it a ski resort. As Doug and I looked across the area, we both thought what a shame that would be. You could not see ONE tower or power line, etc. It is so pristine. And we only have to drive 15 minutes to get there!