Today we drive up Hatcher Pass in the mist to Independence Mines Historical Site, one of Alaska’s largest gold mining sites. While the gold mining buildings are in ruin (collapsed due to snow load), the bunkhouse, cookhouse, and mechanical/woodwork buildings have been restored. We can see into the cold mine shaft and the ore cars that serviced it. The mine was in operation until 1951. It was such an immense amount of work to get the gold from the quartz rock they mined. The area is steep, very mossy green, no trees, lots of creek water and many beautiful wildflowers, along with snow patches.

Nearby is the musk ox farm with 70+ animals. This is not a breeding business. The ox are used to harvest qiviut (the undercoat). This is 8 times warmer than wool, very fine, and soft. 3-6 lbs is harvested from each ox a year (very expensive – a knitted cap is $200). The qiviut is sent to Peru to turn it into wool, then sent to a women’s cooperative for knitting. The whole process takes 3 years!!!

A newborn muskox weighs 30 lbs at birth, while a full grown ox weighs 650 lbs. They do not have musk glands, nor are they related to ox, but goats instead. We learned that they find Palmer to be too warm and prefer to be farther north. It is a mild day and they are lying about panting in their heavy coats. Another interesting visit.

Our last stop of the day is Ekluta, a small native village with a Russian Orthodox Church. Here we can see a large collection of spirit houses in the cemetery. Some are simple, others very elaborate.

We overnight at Cabela’s in Anchorage with many other RV’s

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