Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Iditarod and Independence Mine

This has been a busy day.  Almost the first thing this morning, we moved to the other side of the campground to a full hook-up site.  Water and electric have been good, but a sewer connection to flush our tanks conveniently and easily is also good.  After we got moved and hooked up again, we went to investigate the Iditarod Headquarters.

The Iditarod has been called the “Last Great Race On Earth”.  This high profile winter sporting event pits musher and dog team against nature--the terrain and weather.  Whichever team crosses the finish line 1150 miles down the trail first takes home the prize.  The trail between Anchorage and Nome evolved from the original supply route which served the mining camps.

The Iditarod Headquarters is located in Wasilla.  I’m not sure exactly what my expectations were, but I was a little disappointed in what we found.  There were a few old dogsleds and photos of all the winners down through the years.  There were old newspaper articles and a couple stuffed dogs.  More than anything, it was gift shop.  There is a 20-minute movie.  The film we saw was a series of interview snippets with the top contenders in the 2009 race.  I would liked to have seen something on the training of the dogs, the rigors of the race, or even a history of the Iditarod.  I was disappointed.  At least it was free.

John Redington, Sr.  Father of the Iditarod

After lunch, we drove up to Independence Mine State Historical Park high in the Talkeetna Mountains about 10 miles from Wasilla.  Much of this old mining community is dilapidated and falling down.  Other parts have been saved and are in some state of restoration.  There are guided tours, but we just walked about on our own.

Unlike gold panning and dredge mining, at Independence gold was mined from the rock.  The first claim was staked by a man named Hatcher in 1906, but it was too expensive and too difficult for an individual to extract gold from underground veins.  Large companies with the funds to hire miners and purchase the equipment bought up these individual claims.  During the peak year of 1941 over a million dollars worth of gold was dug out of the mountain.   The mine was closed during WWII and, even though it reopened in 1946, never recovered and was shut down completely in 1951.

The mining stuff is interesting, but the best part of going up there is the scenery, I think.  I just love the high mountains.  We were inspired by the beauty of the area when we first visited the Mine in 2004.  We liked it so well then that we returned a second time before leaving the area.  You know it’s special if we went back today for a third time.

The road to Independence Mine is a paved, 2-lane road with several large pullouts for admiring the views.  It’s a good road and entirely suitable for a small RV.  We would not hesitate to take our class C, but would think twice about a large class A and wouldn’t take a 5th wheel.  There is RV parking at Independence Mine.  The mine is free, but there is a parking fee of $5 per vehicle.

Tomorrow morning we have an appointment with the RV dealer to get our hot water tank fixed.  Hopefully, that won’t take too long and we will be on our way toward Portage Glacier south of Anchorage.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

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