I stopped off at Mocha Moose for breakfast and ordered my usual: sausage, egg and cheese burrito, and a large Mocha spiked with orange. The large mocha has four shots of Good Morning Alaska as espresso. The burrito probably has four to six eggs in it. The Breakfast of Champions! From here, I stopped at the library and Wasilla High School for Sarah Palin History Tour shots then proceeded with the journey to Hatcher Pass. The pass is accessible from the East Palmer-Wasilla Highway or the Glenn Highway. I went via the former route. The Alaska Division of Natural Resources publishes a brochure, East Management Area – Welcome to Hatcher Pass, which describes the area and what you can do there.
The first stop was a pull-off by the Little Susitna River. The road then takes you to a State Park area where you can park, use the bathroom (it’s really a modernized outhouse), and pay the appropriate park use fee. A day pass in all the Alaska state parks is currently $5.
The area where I stood can be snowed in so deep that the snow will be above the roof of the outhouse. People frequently use this as a ski area. Chuck Heath, Sr. was almost killed years ago in an avalanche on the mountain just behind that outhouse.
From here, you can hike or get back on the road and proceed to the Pass itself or Independence Mine.
Anyone familiar with Going Rogue, knows that the book cover was taken in Hatcher Pass and Sarah’s back was likely to the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Valley below. Sarah said Hatcher Pass is a special place to her….
I arrived at the first pull-off and was awed. The valley was under a layer of cloud cover – and I was standing above the clouds. I took a sequence of photos and repeated at the second higher pull-off. Sarah must have stood at one of these two pull-offs for her Going Rogue book cover shot. Which pull-off, I don’t know, but I am quite sure it was one of these two.
After the second pull-off, the road and the elevation gain continues till you reach a fork. Straight ahead is Independence Mine. I would not be going there today. The mine is almost a full-day trip and I would return on Monday. Taking the fork to the left takes you into the Pass…As the name implies, Hatcher Pass is a mountain pass and it runs between Palmer at the east end and Willow at the west end. I would be going the complete length of the Pass today.
Hatcher Pass is loaded with hiking trails and jagged peaks. The rivers and streams are loaded with beaver dams, which is why the water is not potable until it is purified or boiled. It would take several years just to become totally familiar with the place…..If you’re going to drive the Pass, a four-wheel drive vehicle is strongly recommended. You can get by with all-wheel-drive, but an honest-to-God four-wheel drive is really the way to. I would not recommend a regular passenger car for this run. Cars are good for Independence Mine, since you’re parking on a paved road, but much of Hatcher Pass is dirt and gravel roads with large potholes.
Leaving Willow and passing into Wasilla, I did a little train-spotting….
This is not my video, but for you railroad buffs out there, this video uploaded April 1, 2007 shows an Alaska Railroad hopper consist pulled by four locomotives passing at the grade crossing behind Gov. Palin’s house.
I wrote several times that Alaska has highly localized, unpredictable and dangerous weather. An angel had led me to a sweet spot on Lake Lucille and where I stood, the water was calm. On the opposite side, high winds were blowing, the lake was filled with whitecaps, and heavy rain was falling….then I saw it…a brilliant double-rainbow with one end of it landing right at the dock to Carol’s Lake Lucille Bed and Breakfast where I was staying!!!!
I got roughly two thirds of the complete 180-degree arc that the rainbow passed through….