Tuesday, June 7, 2011


We drove about 25 miles up to the Independence Mine State Historical Park today. Several buildings remain from this mine where gold was discovered in 1906 by Robert Lee Hatcher. Don saw this on his Alaska trip in 2003, and is still astonished by the fact that one man picked this particular mountain and discovered gold.


At its peak, the mine employed 204 men and operated year-round. Married men were allowed to build houses in what became known as “Boomtown.”


Several of these small houses are now crumbling.


Unmarried men lived in bunkhouses.


General Manager Walter Stoll had “the Big House” built for his family in 1939. It was distinctive for its size, the red color of the roof, and the conveniences included. It had hot water, a refrigerator, an electric range and a washing machine. “Big Walt” was a popular manager and the workers didn’t mind that he and his family lived in much greater comfort than they did. The house now serves as the Visitor Center.


However, the building was closed today. In fact, the park was closed, and it turned out that we came in when one of the staff members mistakenly left the gate open. When we drove back down the hill, we found ourselves locked in!


I checked the lock to be sure it wasn’t just latched, then we started to turn around and go back up to find some staff to let us out. A couple of employees came down the road about that time, and explained to us that we shouldn’t have been able to get in.


We want to go kayaking while we’re here, weather permitting, but I don’t think it will be in the Little Susitna River!


Unlike this brave guy on a poster, we’re not white-water kayakers!


After a tasty lunch at the ‘best Mexican Restaurant in Palmer’ (also the only one), we visited the Visitor Information Center and watched a movie about the establishment of Palmer under the New Deal resettlement project from 1935 sponsored by the Roosevelt Administration. Families from Wisconsin and Minnesota, primarily, were recruited to move to Palmer and build farms.

We then toured the Colony House Museum, one of the original homes from that project. Click on the link for more information on this chapter of our nation’s history.


The house was in pretty rough condition before its restoration.


Here are some photos from the interior of the house, furnished as it might have been in 1935.


The family that brought this piano with them to Palmer packed their clothing inside it to keep its inner workings intact during the long trip. It was recently tuned and still plays beautifully. What a unique suitcase!


Notice the shipping crate being used as a chest in the children’s room.


Two bedrooms were downstairs, and another upstairs.


Water and electricity were added at some point, but were not included in the original building.


While driving around today, Don slid back the inside cover of the sunroof in our Honda CR-V. We were horrified to discover that it has shattered!


We’re not sure when or how it happened, but it wasn’t like that on Sunday in Valdez. We remember that we heard a strange rattle and thought it might be one of the kayaks or the roof rack. Don slid back the cover then to check on it, and the glass was clear. So the break must have happened yesterday, probably while we were towing it behind the motorhome. How it happened is still a mystery.

We’ve taken steps to get the sunroof replaced through our insurance, although it might cost less than the $500 deductible. In the meantime, Don put a protective cover over it, with a little help from our friend Dennis.


Don’s standing on a stool – Dennis isn’t really *that* short!


A little duct tape can’t hurt.



It’s just another example of the many ways that RVers must be prepared to deal with surprises and challenges in our pursuit of adventures. We’ll continue on to explore Palmer-Wasilla and Anchorage for the next several days, then return to Anchorage for the sunroof replacement when the part comes in, since it’s not likely to reach us before we leave the area.


  1. Thanks for another great tour and pics of Alaska. It's always nice to see a bit of history so I really liked your pictures today of the old buildings.

    I guess one has to expect a bit of broken glass when driving to and thru Alaska. Glad you can get it fixed up there.

  2. We know you like to read. There is a local author by the name of Sue Henry who writes mysteries, mostly based in the Palmer-Wasilla area, or in a motorhome with connections to Alaska. They are light weight but enjoyable reads, and it is delightful to read about places you have recently visited! We have found her books in Costco, on line at Borders or Amazon. Don't know if they are available on Kindle.

  3. Hello!

    I have been enjoying your trip to Alaska. I was happy to see you had a chance to enjoy the Independence Gold Mine My Dad worked as a tool sharpener in the mine from around 1938-1944. My Dad built one of the residences for married men in Boomtown also. One of my uncles also built a house in Boomtown. I was born in 1940 and spent my early childhood years, along with my brother, at the mine.
    Too bad you were unable to get in the big house, as there are photographs of my family displayed on the walls.
    Enjoy your visit in Alaska.

    Phil Olson

  4. So glad to have found your blog, Sharon. My husband an I so wanted to make it to Alaska, but I lost him 6 years ago.

    What a nice life you have; I'm anxious to read from beginning to present. Thanks for writing it. You pictures are beautiful.

    Don't ask about my name(s). I confuse myself without any effort at all.

    I kept journals of all the trips in our motorhome, but only discovered blogging when my pup and I took a trip with trailer and truck.

    I've often thought of trying to transfer my diaries to a blog, but only the last year did I have a digital camera. Who knows, maybe someday if I get "unlazy" I'll start using the scanner and put something together--even if it's just to relive all the trips we made.

    I know you and Don will have a great time in Alaska! - quite a love story.

  5. Yes, Dennis is that short ! He he

    Loving the blog. Check in every day....Thanks

    Steve O'Bosky

  6. Jerry and Suzy,
    Thanks for the tip. Yes, I've already read one of her books and started another one when my Kindle died. I should be getting the replacement any day now. Only about half of her books are available in the Kindle format, but the paperbacks are in almost every gift shop!

    I'm posting this in comments on my blog and sending to you by email in case you don't see it!

  7. Phil,
    That's really interesting that you have the connection to the gold mine! Thanks for commenting.

  8. Lizzie (hope that's your name),
    Thanks for your comments. So sorry you lost your husband, but I hope you'll be able to visit Alaska anyway. There are lots of single RVers on the road, as Don and I traveled before we got together, so you might consider RVing with others in a similar situation. And I hope you'll do the blog, as well.

  9. Hi, Sharon,

    I kept a blog while traveling with my pup last year. We've run into some bad times. I pick him up from the hospital, tomorrow, hopefully. I feel better tonight-had a pity party this morning.


    for my real name. ;-)

    Guess what, though! I got out the scanner and I've started scanning the 35mm pictures. It's taking me a while to learn how to do good scans, but it will be fun looking back at our travels. Wish they had had blogs and digital back then.


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