After my recent visit to Hatcher Pass I couldn’t wait to go back and pick berries, so I invited a friend to join us recently, loaded up the dogs and hit the trail. I had a local’s tip for a spot that was supposed to offer “copious amounts of berries,” but it turned out to be a bust, so we traveled further up the road and checked a few more spots before we finally found a great little patch just below a parking pull-off.
Unlike the high brush blueberries we’d had in Kodiak, these were low brush, which meant they were harder to spot and pick. We all ended up with purple splotches on our knees and rears from unknowingly sitting on a patch while working a group we’d spotted nearby. They were also smaller than their high brush cousins, except the couple of patches we found shaded by other vegetation.
We chatted as we picked and the dogs ran amuck exploring – sometimes right through the patch we were working on, nearly toppling the harvest bucket! They occasionally got to sample the harvest and we took them to the nearby creek for a drink several times. Several times they barked warnings at the paragliders who rode the breeze overhead, in case they got any ideas about trying to land in our berry patch! 🙂
There were also periods of focused picking, where the only sound was the waterfall a few yards away and an occasional chirp of a bird. That’s usually when I’d look around to see where the kiddos had gone since it was too quiet and not see anyone until I called and then heads would pop up out of vegetation.
It got chilly as the day wore on and the clouds started to move in so we decided it was time to call it quits before it started to rain. Before we left I took a few minutes to capture a few portraits of the fur babies, who were plum tuckered and ready for a nap. Two of the three were asleep by the time we got we got halfway home.
We came away with berry stained hands and harvests big enough to make some yummy treats. The hubs used ours – after a lengthy stem removal process – for some lemon blueberry bread, which is the perfect complement to my new indulgence, berry frozen yogurt.
Our new home is a stone’s throw from the amazing Hatchers Pass, but we haven’t gone farther than this first riverside pull off since moving in. That gave me a great reason to plan a photo walk there with my photography Meetup group. I’d heard the historic Independence Mine at the top of the pass offered great panoramas and had interesting old buildings, so I was excited to see it for myself. I wasn’t disappointed.
Before entering the park around the mine there was this adorable lodge with cabins that can be rented. I’m thinking it might be the perfect spot for the hubs and I to have a little get away. (hint, hint!)
The mine itself was a mix of restored and deteriorating historic buildings. The amazing textures on the buildings and scenery literally beg or a rustic photo shoot.
I hiked a steep trail that took me up and around the entrance to the actual mine, providing a hillside view of the entire area.
Rusty pieces of mining equipment were scattered about wherever they were forgotten when the mine closed and several signs explained what each building was used for, along with some interesting historical tidbits.
I spotted several prairie dogs on the road and then got an up close view of a group of them along one of the trails I took. They were gnawing on the wood of a collapsed building, making a sound I first thought was the building sliding down the hillside! Once they spotted me they scurried around and took cover. Then this guy took up sentry duty barking at me in an apparent message to his cohorts that there was danger afoot.
We also made a quick drive over to nearby Summit Lake, which I’m told is only 20’ deep at the center. The water was very chilly, but super clear. I could just envision bringing the fur kids up here to play!
Late August into September is prime season for wild blue berries and there are plenty of patches in this area. I’m planning to make a trip back very soon to pick my own batch, which we’ll freeze and save for my hubby’s amazing lemon blueberry bread!
We purposely chose to live in the boonies because that was the lifestyle we wanted. Unfortunately the tradeoff is a lack of nearby places to enjoy a dinner out, so when the hubs and I spotted a new restaurant just a few minutes from our house a few weeks ago we were excited to give it a try.
We weren’t sure what to expect, but anticipated we’d likely find an ok burger and fries. The exterior was unassuming, but very Alaskan. The Alaskan feel continued inside with large wooden tables and benches. Upon second glance though, I began spotting Alice in Wonderland décor, including a large mural of an anime version of Alice on a toadstool, intermixed with the Alaskan elements and quickly came to realize how the name Mad Hatchers had come about.
The menu included pizzas, burgers and appetizers – all with Wonderlandesque names. We ordered stuffed mushrooms and burgers, although the pizza selections were mighty tempting. When the stuffed mushrooms came out I knew we’d found a new favorite place. Filled with cheese, a delightful sauce, spinach and topped with olives. They disappeared down the “rabbit hole” so quickly I didn’t even get a picture of them!
The burgers came with thin sliced fries which were seasoned just right. And it was a generous portion too. So much so, that I couldn’t finish it, although I very much wanted to! Plus that heaping pile of pickles was just right for me.
Beyond great food they had decent prices and down-to-earth service, which means we will certainly be back. I’m thinking that we’ll try a pizza next time, so I can take home what I can’t eat – because I will certainly order those delectable stuffed mushrooms again!