Rick, Michelle and the boys all camped out in the living room of the condo for the night. We were all up and off by 2 AM. We rode the C&J bus down with stops in Portsmouth and Newburyport before arriving at the airport. Security was easy and the 2 hour flight to Cleveland and 3-4 hour flight to Seattle went fine. Dick and I got to sit in First Class for the first leg- complete with hot towels, breakfast (eggs or cereal, yogurt and fruit), then hot chocolate chip cookies later. I watched a sappy movie. The Anchorage flight went fine, but seemed long.

We took two taxis to the rental car office, then had to wait while they brought the cars from the airport. We had two Toyota Corollas- gold for the Dowlings and blue for us. On the way to Palmer we looked for an Alaskan-looking restaurant and chose the Screaming Goose. It had lots of funny signs and stuffed and carved birds and a carved moose in Carharrt overalls and real antlers. The food was good and the waitstaff very friendly.

In Palmer we found the Hatcher Pass B & B around 8 PM in full light. We six shared a lovely rustic cabin with knotty pine, woodsy quilts, a full kitchen and beautiful flowers on the porch. The owner, Liz, came to welcome us. Rick and Michelle stayed in the upstairs bedroom and we had the downstairs one, with the boys watching TV till they fell asleep on the futon. It was light until midnight, but we were all asleep long before that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

We were all up fairly early and had cereal, bagels, muffins, etc. for breakfast. By around ten we were ready to go. Dick and I went up to the house to finish paying for our accommodations and Liz lent us a gold pan and a shovel to use at places along the streams on our way. We drove up Hatcher Pass to above the tree line. The day was clear and sunny and we stopped several times to see the mountain views. Our last stop on the road was at the Independence Gold Mine which closed in the 1950’s. Some of the buildings were still in use as part of the mine tour but much of the structure for getting gold down the mountain was in ruins. While Dick hunted for birds to photograph, Rick, Michelle, Ricky, Randy and I walked up mine paths and down again. We stopped at a couple of places to try to hand pan for gold. We had a few exciting moments but didn’t find even a speck of gold.
On the way back down we stopped at several other places along a fast moving stream and got very cold hands scooping out sand and gravel, but the gold pan came up empty of anything valuable time after time.

7) Marmot

We had lunch at SubWay in Palmer, then headed for the Musk Ox Farm two miles away. We wandered their museum learning how they harvested the wool from the undercoats of these prehistoric, endangered animals, called qiviut, which was then knitted in intricate patterns into scarves, ear warmers, and hats by native women . Even a simple neck warmer for sale in the gift shop cost $125, but the garment was virtually indestructible and would only get softer through use. We went on the tour from there, first seeing the babies born that spring, then the gentle yearlings who loved being hand fed by the group. Our last stop was to visit Papaya, the ruling male who banged his head into the gate, venting his frustration at being ready to mate, but not having a female in his paddock. He was fairly frightening.

After we finished our tour, we split up and all the guys went back to the cabin while Michelle and I went to a yard sale, finding nothing we wanted, then shopped at the Fred Meyer Supermarket for groceries for future lunches and breakfasts. We came back to the cabin, had grilled cheese sandwiches and sat on the porch, drinking wine and enjoying what might be the last lovely weather for a few days.