Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hatcher Pass

I have been hearing lots about Hatcher Pass over the years--what an amazing outdoor playground it is for backpacking, hiking, snowmachining, downhill and cross-country skiing and snowboarding, but have not been up in that neck of the woods with time to spare before. On our way back from Denali we had some time so took the Fishhook-Hatcher Pass Road from the Willow area.

As we turned up the road, we noticed a sign saying that Hatcher Pass was closed until July 1. I shrugged and thought, "Well, we'll see how far we get." It still ended up being a disappointment when we reached the spot it was closed as we were just a week from the "opening day."

It is a paved road for a ways with houses spattered along the way, but then the gravel begins. We passed a sign that said road closed for the winter that was partially open. As we debated going further, two cars zoomed past us, which made up our mind for us and we continued on. The road followed a gorgeous mountain stream--the type that gets its picture in magazines--for most of the way up to the pass, 10 miles or so. We passed some folks who were panning for gold in the river.

As we went up some switchbacks, we noticed some mines on the side of the mountainside. As we went higher we passed an industrial-looking group of buildings, which was incongruous in this wilderness area. It was an active gold mining operation.

Not far further there was a gate across the road again, and this one was not partially open. Beyond it were snow-covered switchbacks. We asked a lady who was horseback riding about it. She was planning to ride over the pass if the avalanches weren't too bad, which explained why it was closed so late in the season.

So instead of bopping over the pass and on into Palmer or Wasilla, we had to retrace our path back to the Parks Highway. And while we got a "taste" of Hatcher Pass, we are fully aware that we will need to go back and visit again--preferably sometime between July and September--in order to see what is on the other side!

Here are a few pictures of our journey up this picturesque valley.

Mine in Hatcher Pass

Love the view of Hatcher Pass!
Bummed that the road was closed, but beautiful drive anyways! Photo by Phil Waclawski!

Double checking. Nope. No way through. Back the way we came! Photo by Phil Waclawski

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