A Gorgeous Day at Hatcher Pass
Yesterday I left Anchorage and travelled a short way north to Wasilla and set up in the Walmart parking lot. I am truly experiencing a real wilderness adventure the past week or so, boondocking first in Cabella’s parking lot and now at Walmart, but the truth of the matter is that I have yet to find a decent private campground in my Alaska travels. All have you packed in like sardines and seem very much overpriced for what they offer.
As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.
With nice weather predicted for today I was out and about before 7 AM and drove out the Wasilla-Fishhook Road heading for the Hatcher Pass. The Little Susitna River parallels the road as you gain elevation on the way up to the pass, so I had to stop for a few river shots.
The easily climbed paved road up to the State Historical Park at Hatcher Pass provides several great vantage points for photos as well as a couple of primitive campgrounds that would handle mid-sized rigs.
There are a few restored buildings at the State Park and some old mining facilities that have definitely suffered from years of abandonment.
There also was this Alaskan Marmot warming himself up in the early morning sun.
He appeared pretty used to human presence but kept a close eye on this photographer as I was capturing his image.
Just before you reach the State Park, there is a gravel road that takes off to the left and heads up to Hatcher Pass itself. This is a little narrow and steep in a couple spots, and although it probably could be done in the motorhome, i wouldn’t recommend doing so.
The road climbs for a half mile or so to a small parking area at the very top where you can walk out a footpath for some pretty dramatic views of the valley below where the road then takes you eventually to Willow.
Some of the high meadows up here have this weird mounded texture. These mounds are about a yard wide and rise up about a foot or so in the center and are covered in moss.
I have no idea how or why these exist, and can’t say as I have ever encountered anything like them before.
At times today, I literally did have my head in the clouds.
As you can see, you are well above treeline up here and the air is crisp and clean, the distant view just simply spectacular.
The narrow gravel road, in relatively good shape, leads you down from the pass and to the town of Willow, about thirty miles away.
Along the road there are a few active mining operations as well as some abandoned ventures.
All along this road, especially at the higher elevations, were these ground squirrels, some of whom were a little wary of me …
…and some that probably had discovered that some people will throw them some little treats if they look cute and approach your vehicle.
This guy was one of the latter.
All along this road, I was constantly scanning the meadows and mountain slopes looking for wildlife. I was sure I would have to see some sheep or bears somewhere along the way, but I never saw anything, even though I stopped every mile or so and glasssed all the slopes. Perhaps the weekend warriors scared evrything off? It just looks like there would have to be wildlife up here.
The road eventually descends back below treeline, where you start to encounter fireweed once again.
This was close to a ninety mile round trip and it took me about six hours to make it around with all the stops for photographs. The Willow side of the mountains appears to be a very popular spot for the local ATV crowd. THere were several pulloffs for camping along that section of the road and on this Sunday afternoon, almost all of them were occupied by campers with ATV’s. The State Park land doesn’t allow ATV’s.
If you are ever in the Wasilla area and have some decent weather, this is a must do trip.
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