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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Colors

You didn’t get a blog post yesterday because I spent Veterans Day in Hatchers Pass.

Hatchers Pass is one of our favorite places, we spend a lot of time up there.

Hatchers Pass, for those of you not familiar with Alaska, is a BLM area near Wasilla.  It’s on the old gold rush and supply trail that once snaked its way from Seward to Fairbanks.  Before the modern Glenn Highway the pass was the quickest way north from Anchorage.  Nowadays, the road over the top and through the actual pass itself is closed in the winter, buried under yards of snow and used only by hearty souls on snow machines and skis.

In the summer the pass is a great place for hiking, gold panning, and exploring. 

In the winter, it’s a popular place for snowboarders and skiers.

For years, developers have been trying to get their grubby hands on the place, so they can charge us to do what we now do for free.  There’s a certain mindset that just cannot stand the fact that people are enjoying themselves without having to pay for it.  So far, any attempt at development has been unsuccessful and that suits us just fine.

I don’t snowboard. I’m in enough pain most of the time without tempting fate any further.  My son does the downhill stuff, I mostly just take pictures. 

 

The skiers, sledders, shredders, and boarders all start at the bottom of the pass.  Since there’s no lift, they hitch rides up the mountain from passing vehicles.  They line up like brightly colored birds along the guardrail and wait for a ride. Nobody ever has to wait for long. Since we didn’t bring the dog this time, we gave rides to as many kids as we could pack into the back of the truck.

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It’s several miles to the top.  There are a number of trails down the mountain, but most of the snowboarders like to start at the very top, mile 16 on the pass road.

They gear up and head off down the mountain.  This is a shot of my son strapping on his helmet (this picture was actually taken last weekend and was posted on my Facebook page. But I like it, so I’m reposting it here).

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Here’s a panorama taken from the 16 Mile parking area.  This is seven shots stitched together using Corel’s Paintshop Photo Pro.  Clicking on the image will take you to a bigger version in my public Picasa album. If you look really carefully, you can see my house down there on the flats. It’s that little dot.

 

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Once you drop off your passengers, you drive on back down the mountain to pick them up and do it all over again. After a day of this, you have one very tired kid, so, you know, it’s totally worth the half tank of gas.

I hiked up the trail at the bottom of the run and snapped a few pictures while trying to avoid getting run over.  I thought the colors made a great contrast against the white snow. And that dog was having a blast, chasing its owner down the mountain and barking like mad. The dog was plenty smart and experienced enough to avoid getting run over.  In typical Alaskan fashion there are actually a lot of dogs on the slope, all having fun (and we counted at least two moose).  Just another reason to avoid development, can you imagine your local ski lodge allowing dogs on the slope? 

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I thought to myself as I took the pictures, man, I sure wish I could do that. But then I realized that to board Hatchers Pass you need skill, experience, and an athlete's physique.  I would have thought about it more, but at that very moment, I had to leap out of the way of a little pink blur which whooshed past me in an icy spray of mocking girlish laughter.  She waved and grinned like a tiny maniac as she whistled past, ponytails flying.

I figure she was about eight.

27 comments:

  1. Love your photos.
    Love your writing.
    Thanks for all you do.
    Sincerely.
    A lot.

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  2. Jim-- I enjoy your writing. This one was great. It reminded me of something. When I was a little girl, we lived near an old man named Mac. I remember him as a very nice man. A few years ago, my dad (88 yrs), who is not a story teller, asked me if I remembered him. Then he told me that Mac and his brother had gone to Alaska during the gold rush and had actually gotten lucky. That was until they were going through some pass on their way home, got mugged and ending up coming back to MN empty-handed. Wonder if that pass is the one you know.

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  3. @jane, likely that would have been the Chilkoot Pass. But it certainly could have been elsewhere in the Klondike. Robbing gold miners was much more lucrative than actually panning for gold.

    I always look at old men and wonder who they were when they were young. I find it fascinating.

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  4. That looks like a lovely day, even though so much snow this time of year would make me cry. Guess I'll never live in Alaska.

    The wolfie would have loved it when he was young and spry.

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  5. Jim-- while I came for the political writing, I really really enjoy posts like this one. Great insight into your corner of the world. The pics were fabulous.

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  6. I agree with you - I hope Hatcher Pass is never developed by the profiteers.

    The slice of life and the photos were wonderful - reminded me of taking my kids down to entirely overdeveloped Girdwood.

    Occasionally I do miss the place.

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  7. The funny part is that there are two developed ski slopes near Anchorage, and neither are profitable. So what makes these chowderheads think that they're going to make a profit here? What it is is exactly what I said in the post, they just can't stand the thought of people having fun for nothing. It pisses them off that people come here and ski for nothing instead of spending money at Apenglow or Alyeska.

    I will vote against any and all attempts to commercialize the Pass.

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  8. The brown husky takes the cutest prize. (Your resident dog nut!)

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  9. This took me back to sledding, which I loved! Until that last run, of course. I should have noticed puddles were forming on the track, and then decided not to go one more time. That bank sure was hard when I couldn't get up the speed and instead hit face-first directly in the center. My sled was a sheet of rather heavy plastic with a horse blanket, Navajo-style, on top and the front bundled up into a handhold. It was the last season of Beaverhead Lodge south of Alpine, Arizona, and my family rented a cabin there for the winter and turned out our horses in the pasture, a break from our long ride that year (1981) across much of the state. So I really enjoyed and waxed nostalgic with your photo essay.

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  10. I have heard of snow, and seen it in movies. I don't understand why there are frozen things outside of the freezer. It's sick and unnatural.

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  11. It's sick and unnatural.

    That's what she said

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  12. Loved the pictures and the descriptions. And the dogs take first prize! Looks as though they were having a great time - I think they're laughing as they run. Congrats on a great day.

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  13. Jim, I really enjoyed this post and photos, and have spent many happy days in the Hatcher Pass area. Good times! (I lived @MP92.5 of the Parks, & accessed HP from the Willow side). We moved to FL November 2010 after many years in AK.

    Thank you for your service!

    Brett
    USAF Retired

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  14. Don't get me wrong--I come here for the political commentary, but I often wondered if you ever had any fun.

    I see that you do, and lots of it! Enjoyed the pictures and the writing today!

    Thanks for sharing--

    BTW, the high today in South Texas will be 83. Can you send us some cool?

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  15. Jim, what lens did you use for the snowboarder and the puppy pics? Just curious -- the EXIF data didn't survive the PNG processing.

    Dr. Phil

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  16. My blog editor typical strips off EXIF data from images unless I specifically tell it to retain the information.

    I was using a Nikon DX 55-200 AF/VR zoom lens.

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  17. Great snapshot of life "up there" Jim. Thanks for this.

    Around here, folks are quaking in their boots, waiting for the inevitable, city-paralyzing first snow. How I miss living around people who can enjoy it and respect it.

    (One final note: I believe the last word of the third paragraph should be "skis" not "skies."

    Cheers

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  18. Thanks for posting the photos with the text. My son is going to love this one.

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  19. Jim, Have you tried other programs besides Corel and liked Corel the best?

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  20. Yes. I've used all the major photo editor programs including industry standard, Adobe Photoshop. I like Corel Paintshop Pro best, it suits how I work better than the other tools.

    Personally, I think Adobe is overrated and over priced.

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  21. Thanks! I have multiple programs on my laptop, looking for one that just does what I need in the way I like to do it. I really want to just find one to do almost everything instead of bouncing between them. Your photos are really nice so what you use is worth looking at.

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  22. wicked fun! Thanks a lot for sharing.

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  23. Great post, Warrant.

    If this happened in CA, you'd have 30 people writing in about how having kids the the back of trucks was dangerous and didn't you know that BLM land is to keep the green-titted warbling banana bird from becoming extinct?

    Maybe I'm whining because I miss snow. I don't get snow where I live in CA. Of course, I'm doubly punished because I live in CA.

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  24. Whoa- the COLORS! Against the white, beautiful shots. I was pleasantly surprised to see this this morning. It's a nice respite from politics, and it brought back that cold, frozen glee I remember as a kid (in Canada) Traipsing up the hillsides and down in a flash of powder, usually with a face full of it. For hours, all day.

    Thanks. Now I think I'll go thaw out with a toddy- consolation prize for having grown too old to zoom.

    bd

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  25. Jim -- so much fun reading this. We're rapidly progressing to winter here in New England. I'm still mourning the summer, but this reminds me of all the joy winter has to offer. Love your posts -- keep it up

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  26. Ah. It's little "gifts" like this that keep life worth the work.

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