Glenn Highway parallels the Mentasta and Wrangell Mountain ranges and spans the fertile Matanuska Valley. The drive provided incredible mountain views on our way to Palmer, Alaska.
Historic Palmer and its many colony farms dates back to Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal relief program as a 1935 depression era farming experiment. FDR sent 203 families from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota to the Matanuska Valley to utilize the agricultural potential in the area. Each family was given 40 acres of land for farming and raising cattle. Although many families left Alaska, some of their descendants still live in Palmer. We toured the Colony House Museum, a restored 1930’s home originally occupied by Matanuska Valley colonists. Later that day, we enjoyed the draft beer at the Palmer Ale House in the Historic District.
In Palmer is a Musk Ox Farm. The oxen are raised for their soft undercoat called qiviut. Qiviut is 8 times warmer than sheep’s wool and extremely soft. The wool is collected by nonprofit cooperatives and given to Native Alaskan women, who knit the qiviut into garments, hats, scarves.
We took a side trip to a scenic alpine country road and historic abandoned gold mine. Hatcher Pass is a beautiful drive along the Little Susitna River. The road turns to dirt and gravel to Summit Lake where hang gliders soar over the old mine ruins.
MATANUSKA VALLEY, MATANUSKA RIVER, MATANUSKA GLACIER:
We left Palmer on the Glenn Highway and drove along the Matanuska Valley. The Matanuska Glacier heads into the Chugash Mountains and is 26 miles long and 4 miles wide. It is classified as a valley glacier, a body of solid ice that flows like a river under its own weight through an existing valley. The glacier’s meltwater drains into a stream that flows into the Matanuska River.
WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS NATIONAL PARK, WORTHINGTON GLACIER:
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is America’s largest park. At 13.2 million acres, it is six times larger than Yellowstone National Park. We went to the Visitor’s Center to watch a movie about the Park. This is the only way to see this massive Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Thompson Pass gave us a spectacular view of the Worthington Glacier.
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