Dateline June 27, 2011, Anchorage to Denali

After our wonderful experience in Anchorage we stayed in a beautiful Alaska State camping ground on the Eagle River in the town of Eagle River. We were just 100 feet from the river and the peaceful sound of the water flowing made for two great nights of sleep. The first day we drove into town and got our fishing licenses that would last until we actually left Alaska. We had a tee time to play golf at Elmendorf Air Force Base where civilians are allowed to play. The course, Eagleglen, was a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design and considered “Alaska’s best” by Golf Digest. It was beautiful as Ship Creek runs back and forth through and along the course. We walked and carried our bags for 18 holes having a great afternoon, or evening, since we finished at about 8 PM. Back to the campground and a bunch of our Roadtrek friends had a fire going, making s’mores and enjoying a few cocktails. We joined them and then went off to our own site for another great night of “sun and sleep”.

We drove the next morning to the Palmer and Wasilla area, no Sarah Palin or her bus was sighted! We then went to Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Mountains to visit Independent Mine.

The mining buildings

The mine was in operation from the 1930’s thru to 1951. Gold was discovered in the Willow Creek area in 1896. Robert Lee Hatcher staked the first hard rock claim in 1906. Several gold mining operations than began. In 1938, the Alaska Free Gold Mine merged with Independence Mine to form the Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Co. The mining capacity of the Independence Mine was increased with the building of new bunk houses, cafeterias and other infrastructure to service the growing production. The company had 83 mining claims, making it the largest producer in the mining district. At the height of production with multiple tunnels for escalation they produced over 34,000 ounces of gold. The production cost was estimated at $19/ounce and the government controlled price was $35/ounce.

What is left

The men worked days in eight-hour shifts with two weeks off a year. The mine ran 24 hours a day with only Christmas and July 4th as holidays. The government closed operations of the mines in 1943 because mining for gold was non-essential to the war effort. After the war Independence Mine was reopened and finally closed in 1951. On the list of “Must See” when you travel Alaska.

We then played golf at Settler’s Bay in Wasilla, said to have one of the most beautiful nine holes of golf in Alaska. We rode in carts since the course looked to be a bit hilly. Always looking for animals, this picture is a duck only found in Alaska and

Barrow's Goldeneye duck

It was beautiful and we had a wonderful time playing with Chuck and Carol and a few beers and great Alaska Nachos. It was a beautiful 9 holes but most beautiful?..hard to say after so much beauty here in Alaska.

On up the Park Highway to Denali National Park we stopped at a number of Alaska State Parks and found them to be no more than parking fields, so we drove on to Talkeetna.

Welcome

Talkeetna is just over 100 miles south of Mt. McKinley, also known as Mt. Denali, in Denali National Park. Most climbing activity is staged in Talkeetna where about 1,200 climbers per year originate their climbs. In 1915 it became the center for engineering of the Alaska Railroad that ran from Fairbanks to Seaward. Land was available for under $15, so the town started to grow. The road from Anchorage was completed in 1964, so the railroad has been mostly used for tourist. This is also the center for flight-seeing of Mt. McKinley. One of the couples in the Roadtrek group was on a flight to Mt. Whitney when the pilot was called to pick up a climber off Mt. McKinley, they landed on a glacier, picked him up and flew pack to Talkeetna, made for an exciting adventure. We were fortunate to arrive on a Thursday where the view of Mt. McKinley was crystal clear.

Mt McKinley South Slope

We were told that we were in the 30% club. 70% of the time cloud cover causes the mountain to be hidden.

Beautiful Butterfly

We took an evening boat ride up the river, actually three rivers converge at Talkeetna, the views of the mountains was an absolute WOW!!! The three peaks, from left to right, Mt Foraker (17,400 feet), Mt. Hunter (14,573 feet) and Mt McKinley (20,320 feet) were clear as a bell and all of us enjoyed a very rare sight of majesty (that is the lead picture of this blog).

What a fun town. Two of its restaurants have been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food”. The Roadhouse for its breakfast and the West Rib Pub and Cafe which features its “Seaward’s Folly” Sandwich which is 41/2 pounds on a sourdough bun! They do have a “Junior Version”, just 2 pounds!

Pete

Pete Warenski and John decided to try the 2 pounds, much to the

John

delight of all the rest of us. Makings; 1 pound caribou burger, cooked to order, 6 slices of bacon, 4 slices of ham, Swiss and cheddar cheese along with grilled onions – served with the Alaska state flag in the top. But of course, enough french fries for an army. How was it? The caribou was interesting and good, Janice thought it tasted like steak. John couldn’t finish the sandwich even by avoiding the bread, most of the ham, cheese and bacon. Pete ate half his sandwich so there were leftovers for Pete, and John’s went to Kim and Hal’s child, Benny! Here is the video from “Man vs. Food” showing the making of the sandwich.

An interesting attitude develops while you tour Alaska slowly in an RV. You start to think you are more of a local than the people who visit with the cruise ships. Talkeetna is part of the land based portion of the cruise itinerary. The people are sent from Seaward to Anchorage on the railroad and then on to Talkeetna by bus or rail-car. When you walk into town after 12:00, all of a sudden all the shops and restaurants are filled with people carrying their Princess or Holland American bags, we avoid them like the plague!! It is just funny.

After a long walk to help settle the food, it was back to the camp site to pick up the RoadTreks and head off fishing. No fish were caught, but it was a wonderful evening. In the morning it was off to Denali, 125 miles up the highway.

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About johnandjanice

We are two semi retired former technology executives that enjoy traveling around the world with an emphasis on playing gof; in most cases reasonably priced courses and enjoy our passion for great local wines. We have purchased a Class B Roadtrek RV and will spend many months on the road in North America meeting many locals while enjoying their local communities and sharing our experiences with the readers of our blog: Travels with John and Janice.
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