|Alaska! Part 3: Back Across|
Glennallen past Anchorage, Alaska (Map)
I stirred several times due to the dusk/dawn light conditions, but I kept going back to sleep until I had enough.
Not sleeping very far from Glennallen, I went into town for breakfast at their Caribou Hotel. They had caribou sausage, which was worth trying for the whole eating Alaskan thing, but how much can you really judge a meat from its sausage form?
It was tasty enough though, and as I observed a waitress who was a dead ringer for one of these attractive girls from my teenage youth, one couldn't complain. A group of men sat nearby and mocked some city slicker from New Jersey whom they had hosted earlier, adding amusement to the whole meal.
I returned towards Anchorage this day, driving down the same AK-1 that brought me to Kennecott.
Thankfully it wasn't raining so hard now, allowing me to enjoy the intense scenery that comes once you reach the mountain valley.
The rain increased once I finally left the AK-1 onto Fishhook Road. Following the winding road north into the Talkeetna mountains, I imagined the gain in elevation had something to do with the heavier rain. Nevertheless, it wasn't raining that hard yet & I was thankful - for this was some incredible scenery. More than once I hit the roadside gravel & had to remind myself to pay attention. Fishhook Road follows the Little Susitna River back up into these mountains and the elevation change combined with the river, provides pleasantly scenic vistas.
Upon reaching my destination at the Independence Mine State Historical Park, the rain was now hitting the windshield at a concerning rate. It was at this point that I reached into the backseat in search of my rain jacket, but then pictured it perfectly...perfectly in the pocket of my golf club bag back in Calgary. Dangit!
I had to just shake my head after trying to be so prepared, then forgetting such an elementary item as a rain jacket.
Thankfully I noticed the nearby tour bus unloading & the people didn't look too uncomfortable. I donned the most appropriate clothes I had & resolved to return to the car once it really started raining.
Independence Mine is the name assigned to two separate mines which came together to handle the costs of gold mining. Whereas gold mining is often associated with Nome & Fairbanks in Alaska, this one was more southern, yet still lucrative.
Independence Mine survived WWII - where they shut down other gold mines - by also mining tungsten. Unfortunately the tungsten was too little & Independence was shut down a year later. It would reopen after the war, but back then, only the government could buy this gold & it quickly became cost prohibitive.
The children who were deeded this land by their father, eventually donated it to the State of Alaska for creation of a State Historical Park.
That fantastic Alaskan blog I've mentioned several times now, recently posted pictures from here & remarked at how much damage was done by the past winter. Even as I walked around the ruins on this given day, I wasn't quite sure how some of the more dilapidated structures could survive another 5-10 years of harsh Alaskan winters.
Yeah I know 'State Historical Parks' aren't really my thing here, but c'mon look at this place! How could I pass this up?
I stood before the curving elevated rail line and wondered if this was truly abandoned, how far would people walk out onto it? It was awfully decimated.
As I continued to walk around, I also wondered how many similar places remain up in the mountains somewhere; inaccessible & sitting quietly. They have to exist in Alaska (the fact that I was in this narrow valley of mining ruins, made my mind wander as to what was in the next valley...and the next...and the next...).
The actual mines would certainly be more accessible if I hiked to a more abandoned site...because I sure as heck wasn't getting into actual Independence. Ha!
I started to cover the return portion of the loop trail, not before pausing to watch the bird life.
The first picture is of a Golden-crowned Sparrow, a west coast bird which is a rare vagrant to the midwest. They seem to disappear into B.C. and Alaska during the summer to breed, meanwhile singing a sad song which gold-rush miners were said to have become melancholic upon hearing, while surrounded by tundra & scrubland.
The second bird is an American Dipper with its offspring. The Dipper was grabbing insects from the stream and feeding the hungry youngin' as I sat watching from a nearby bridge. This bird is able to hunt underwater quite effectively because it has a nictitating membrane, which is like a thinner eyelid, allowing it to close this membrane & easily see underwater.
I probably could have used a nictitating membrane myself as it was starting to rain more heavily. I was thankful for the drizzle time afforded to me, but it was now time to go.
The other agenda item of the day was to stop at the Eklutna Cemetery.
The colourful structures you see are spirit houses. The indigenous Athabascan Alaskans used to cremate their dead, then hang the ashes from tree branches and allow the wind to take their spirits. This was until the Orthodox Russians came to Alaska; as they forbid the burning of human remains. So instead, the indigenous peoples built these colourful spirit houses, to house their spirits until they were ready to make their journey to "the High Country".
There were three pathways between the 50 to 75 spirit houses. A little village of housing for the afterlife.
There were two Russian Orthodox churches also on site - which is always intriguing to someone so fascinated with mysterious Russia, with its onion domes and Orthodox crosses...
I continued on - passing right by Sarah Palin's Wasilla since so many people have asked - and onto a fine pizza-slash-brewery in Anchorage. After changing my t-shirt & euroshowering in the parking lot, I went inside and devoured a delicious Chicken Rockefeller pizza (Roasted Chicken, Bacon, Spinach, Roasted Garlic, Red Onions, Cream Cheese, Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Diced Romas) and a tasty pint.
I concluded that the fare was worth enduring the crowded restaurant, then found the highway out of town, beside Cook Inlet.
As the ominous clouds held their place & I moved forward, day 3 wasn't done just quite yet...
Onwards to Part 4!
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Sources: 1 - Talkeetna Mountains - Wikipedia
2 - Golden-crowned Sparrow - The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
3 - American Dipper - Wikipedia
4 - Independence Mine State Historical Park - ADNR, Division of Parks & Outdoor Rec.
5 - In Alaskan Cemetery, Native and Orthodox Rites Mix - npr.gov
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