Saturday, June 29, 2013

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

When we left Arizona, it was with a canoe on the rack, specifically so that the grandson and I could do an overnight canoe trip. Thursday and Friday were supposed to be the days. We took the trailer to the South Rolly Lake campground in the Nancy Lakes State Recreation Area where BJ and Turk would stay while we did the Lynx Lake circuit. The fact that the grandson had on a mosquito head net before we left the trailer was an indication of things to come.

We launched and headed out to do the circuit in a clockwise direction. About 8 miles total, 14 lakes and 14 portages with four designated campsites scattered around the circuit. Mosquitoes were a cloud at the launch but we persevered.

We checked out a beaver lodge

and arrived at the next portage where the welcoming committee met us with rev’d up wings.

A pair of loons sang to us on one lake. 

At the third portage, after talking with a party headed the opposite direction who reported even worse mosquitoes at the campsites, we decided to change plans and set up camp in a different location than original anticipated,

right back where we started. In spite of Deet, the mosquitoes were going to make the trip miserable which was not the memory we wanted for a first overnight trip. I see some issues with the decision I did make, but I’d rather he be disappointed than not wanting to ever do it again.

We did get in a tent night, and more paddling and time together so it wasn't a total write-off.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Independence Mine

The snow finally melted and I got a chance to visit the Independence Mine outside of Palmer, AK. The original claim was staked in 1906 but the structures and equipment of the Independence Mine were built between 1936 and 1942. Today, almost all of the operational areas are ruined but the administrative areas of the mine remain intact.

Only a few pieces of mining equipment remain. The rest was sold when the mine closed permanently in the early 1950s.

Tracks from the main shaft to the mill give a sense of direction, but the supporting trestle only partially remains.

I assume this was a tool sharpening shop given the racks of drill rods that remain.

The mill is so demolished that it's hard to even piece together a sense of flow for the rock as it was worked into a concentrate form. The concentrate was shipped to Tacoma, Washington for smelting.

In addition to the $5 / vehicle entrance fee, we paid $6 per person for a guided tour of some of the buildings. Most of the buildings weren't lit and photography was a challenge.

Architecturally they were nothing special, but I found myself drooling over the quality of the wood that was used, even in the floors.

There is at least one mine still operating in the area and opportunities for a variety of hikes in the area. The access road is great, and there is room to park RVs of any size.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Denali - Up Close

We've been back in our son's driveway while I visited mines, prepped for a two day canoe trip with the grandson, and BJ went out to see the mountain. The son's sister-in-law has been in town as well so he took her and BJ on a flight-seeing tour of Denali.

Some of the photos will have reflections from the windows.

They headed north to Ruth Glacier at the foot of Denali and followed it towards the mountain.

Down below, on the glacier, were several planes with tourists or climbers.

The glacier had interesting textures and colors.

Meanwhile, the view of the mountain grew larger
and larger
and larger,
while BJ used the 500 mm equivalent zoom on the camera to good effect.
And the view looking back as they returned home.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Alaska Aviation Museum - Anchorage

Nestled in among the hangars on the shores of Lake Hood is the Alaska Aviation Museum. Several of their operational aircraft were out on a tour of the state when I visited, and other restored aircraft are located such that it was difficult to get good pictures with my camera. The museum has done an exceptional job of collecting rare aircraft that were once used a bush aircraft in Alaska such as this Hamilton Metalplane owned by Wein.

Perhaps the rarest artifact on display is the engine and forward fuselage frame of the Seattle, one of four Douglas World Cruisers custom built for the US Army's flight around the world in 1924. The Seattle crashed in Alaska, the Boston crashed in the north Atlantic, while the Chicago and New Orleans completed the circumnavigation.

The museum has a Super Wigeon

and a Goose that appear to be in airworthy condition.

The restoration hangar just completed a American Pilgrim that was on tour and will be starting on a Cessna "Bamboo Bomber" in the near future.  Other aircraft in the queue for restoration include a 1937 Stinson SR-9,

a 1944 Noorduyn Norseman,

a 1943 Beechcraft UC-45F (aka Beech 18) on floats,

and lots of others that will likely never fly again.

Kudos to the museum for a collection that is significant to aviation history in Alaska.

$10 entrance fee.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Anchorage Museum

I hear several mentions of the Anchorage Museum, so we headed off this morning for a visit. Parking is a bit of a challenge and we almost threw in the towel before parking in a garage a couple blocks away. I'm sure glad the trailer was parked in our son's driveway!

In addition to the normal, permanent exhibits, the museum was highlighting Artic Flight in celebration of 100 years of aviation in Alaska. The second floor was permanent exhibits about each of the native cultures. It was excellent but I was not able to capture any usable photos due to the low light.

The Artic Flight exhibit and an associated summer exhibit about Wrangell Mountain Skyboys did a good job of developing an understanding of the dependency on aviation for much of the growth in the state. Lots of artifacts of a non-technical nature

including a variety of advertising signs

Museum entrance for adults is $15, and worth it for the permanent exhibits. The short term exhibits are icing on the cake.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Alaska's Two Seasons

For many Alaskans, there seems to be just two seasons. There's "machine" season, when the easiest way to get around the back country is on snow machines. That seems to be when most of the heavy or oversize equipment gets moved into the back country.

The other season is "wheeler" season when quads become the tool to access mining claims and other back country locations.

I got invited to visit a claim, where most of the trail in was dry and dusty,

but some was still very wet and muddy.

We got the excavator moved onto the claim, but the ground is still frozen, making digging tough.

The most important thing was that we got the heater plumbed to the hot tub and operating with some help.

And watched caribou wander through

as well as a solitary fox.

They watched the sunset. It was well past my bedtime!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mining in Girdwood

After passing through Girdwood, or at least the namesake highway junction, multiple times and taking advantage of the gas prices that are much better than locations on the Kenai, we decided to do a little exploring on this last pass. Turns out there is quite a community tucked back from the highway, and beyond the community is the Crow Creek Mine.

In a search for rust, we continued up the gravel road for three miles to the mine. The road was in better shape than the Swanson River road. The mine is now a National Historic Site and continues operating as a recreational mine. Panning or mining in the creek costs $20 per day while dry camping is $10 per day.

I wasn't sure which category I fit into, but I paid the $10 fee as a Presidential candidate, if only for a moment.

There wasn't all that much "rust" around the property although there were obvious remains of the hydraulic nozzles used in earlier mine operations.

There were a number of buildings on the property that dated back to 1898 and the beginnings of the mine. The grounds were beautiful with barrels of flowers everywhere.

Some buildings, such as the mess hall, were open with lots of stuff on display. Others were used as residences by the family that has owned and operated the mine for the past 40 years.

They were in the process of setting up for a couple of weddings over the weekend, so we left them and wandered back down the hill,

but not before other groups and individuals started arriving to try their hand at gold panning.

If old mines aren't your cup of tea, you could likely find a cup to your liking at the Alyeska Resort, found at the end of another one of the roads in Girdwood. This is home to the well-known tramway, restaurant, and ski slopes. We didn't partake, but others report it's a "must" visit.