Since my spur-of-the-moment decision to visit Whittier had turned out so well, I decided to do another jaunt – turning on what became a dirt road just north of Wasilla.
The road indicated it went to Hatcher Pass, but little did I realize how far it was. I ended up traveling about an hour (only 20 miles or so) on paved and dirt roads, but believe me (just like Whittier) it was worth it.
The road rose up and up, out of the pines and into a tundra-like world, ending at the top of the almost 4,000-foot pass. Just past the summit was the Hatcher Pass Lodge, a bare-bones restaurant and series of cabins with no running water.
A mile away from the Hatcher Pass Lodge are the remains of Independence Gold Mine, now a state historical park.
Robert Lee Hatcher was the first person to find gold in this area in 1906 (hence the name of the pass). Other miners followed and before too long two large gold mines were established.
The Independence Mine was formed after the merger of the two mines in 1938. At its zenith, the mine’s various claims covered more than 1,350 acres and included 27 structures. In its peak year, 1941, APC employed 204 men, blasted nearly a dozen miles of tunnels, and produced 34,416 ounces of gold worth $1.2 million.
Today that would be worth over $17 million. Closed in 1974, it was donated to the state in 1980.