States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Crow Creek Mine, Musk Ox Farm

Before leaving the area, we paid to wander around the Crow Creek Mine, a National Historic Site, reading about its history and trials.  A group of four friends staked a claim here in 1897 but it wasn’t successful until they sold it after multiple disasters and lots of squabbles!  The ‘Crow Creek Boys’ had the most productive camp in the Turnagain-Knik region in the early 1900s.  The early mining methods quickly switched from pick and shovel labor to hydraulic operations.  Erickson bought the mine in 1922 and owned it until the Toohey family, who still own it today, took over.

Note the Wall of Lost Soles!

Over the years, there has been success in finding gold in the flowing rivers and people were clearly still flocking here to try their luck.  The largest nugget ever found at Crow Creek was the size of a chicken’s egg and weighed four and a half ounces. We were surprised how many people were there on a Friday, panning; decked out in dry suits and waders.  One lady showed the kids her finds from the week.  She’d been there since Monday sifting through the sediment each day. 

So dedicated to the search for GOLD that the embarrassment of having your crack on show doesn't register!

The original outdoor fridge - sodas on sale!

From Girdwood, we backtracked along the Highway, following the coastline, passing Anchorage, and heading to the Glenn Highway.  

We had read quite a bit about Musk Ox Farm and were eager to visit and see these animals.  We took a tour out to the fields where we met some of the new mother ox.  Each new batch of babies are given names along a theme.  The most recent newborns, just a couple of months old, were all named for spices – Paprika was the smallest.

In one field are those mothers who can tolerate human interaction; the neighboring field houses those who will not be willingly corralled.  Brought here from Canada many years ago by an enterprising animal researcher, these wonderful beasts have been domesticated and are raised for their wool which they shed in enormous, almost blanket-like, clumps each year. Despite how much was on the ground, a 600lb ox yields only about 3-6lbs of this precious fiber.

Those who will tolerate close contact with people are groomed, the others shed naturally, and all of their wool is ‘field collected’ by interns from local universities who care for and feed the Musk Ox.

While we were admiring them, we were lucky enough to time our tour for their once-daily feeding, meaning they were all up and close to the fences; we were so lucky!

From here, we checked other fields including the bull pen.  There is one dominant male, Goliath, who was knocked off his perch a couple of years ago by a young upstart.  He regained control the following year though, ensuring mating rites, and currently reigns supreme.

Musk Ox wool (qiviut, pronounced ‘kiv-ee-ute’) is incredibly warm, eight times warmer than wool, but given its properties, limited resources, and scarceness, it comes with quite a price tag.  It is one of the finest natural fibers known to man; it will not shrink in any temperature of water. The wool is given to a cooperative group, Oimingmak, of 250 knitters, throughout the state of Alaska who knit different items incorporating their local tribe or village traditional patterns into each piece.  In this way, money is returned to rural communities.

The AAG had suggested driving the Palmer-Fishhook Road to Hatcher Pass, a lovely scenic area.  We drove a short distance along, following the river.  Stopping at Little Su River, we watched rafters prepare to enter the water.

 Our planned for campground had evidently closed in the short few months since the book had been published, so we spent the night in reasonably close quarters at Fox Run just outside Palmer.
Found a geocache!

We spent so long packing that it was after midnight before we realized that the kids were still outside happily playing with another three families of kids.  It was quite entertaining watching them all figuring out games which worked; there was a dancing show, kickball, baseball….all happening into the next day!  The shock of dark nights will be awful!

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