Hatcher Pass Road + Anchorage, Alaska – Earthquake at Earthquake Park

Instead of following the boring main road we are turning in Willow into Willow Fish Road. The 80 km long track leads over the 1,184 metres high Hatcher Pass to Palmer. In the beginning of the west side and on the eastern end there are some kilometres asphalt, but mainly it is a narrow one-lane gravel road with pull-outs and very narrow serpentines. It is not suitable for large motorhomes and trailer combinations, but one of the most beautiful routes we drove. From the west you quickly reach treeless tundra. The trail accompanies a mountain creek that shoots over big round rocks into the valley. Then the road rises higher and higher, on the right side a deep valley opens. There is still a lot of active gold mining in this area; whole families seem to spend their holidays here seeking for the precious metal.
From Hatcher Pass you have a beautiful view onto the road and a couple of ponds. On an August 10th we are stocking ourselves with thick jackets and wool caps, and hiking up to one of the surrounding mountains. We are rewarded with a breathtaking view to both sides: The frugal west, just covered with a green carpet, and the high, jagged, and snow-covered mountains of the east with the glittering waters of Matanuska River in-between. The city of Palmer is situated in the middle of a fertile green valley, the only agriculturally important region in Alaska where many kinds of vegetable grow excellently due to 165 frost-free days in an average year and long daylight hours in summer. On descending you pass the Independence Mine where you can inform yourself about the history of gold mining and prospect for gold on the public claim. On the east side the road squeezes itself together with a romantic brook through a canyon. Separated through the mountains from Alaska’s cold back-country bushes and trees grow rampant in the balancing climate of the Gulf of Alaska, part of the North Pacific.
Anchorage is situated at the Cook Inlet, again a part of the Gulf of Alaska, between Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm. With 283,000 inhabitants Anchorage is Alaska’s second largest city, but its capital is still Juneau at the Gatineau Channel in the state’s inaccessible south. The Gulf welcomes us with more than unpleasant weather. 10° C, 65 km/h wind, and upcoming drizzling rain make even Anchorage’s residents shudder. We are going to Earthquake Park where on Good Friday 1964 during North America’s strongest earthquake in the New Age parts of the land and 75 houses plunged into the sea. You still can see old cars, nearly buried in the gravel beach. Later we will get to know that exactly as we had a coffee in our cabin at Earthquake Park a nearly imperceptible earthquake of intensity 4.1 vibrated Anchorage. The city lays at the Ring of Fire, the active earthquake and volcanic zone around the Pacific. Less intense earthquakes and volcanic ashes regularly strike the area, stronger quakes are fortunately rare.

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