Let's get this vacation started!

Sunday, July 23, 2017
Anchorage, Alaska, United States
Dave from Alaska Camper Van Rentals met us at the hotel at 10 am to deliver our home for the next 3 weeks and go over the van.   We loaded up our “gear” (suitcases and backpacks) and hit the road for shopping…market(s), REI, Costco, and Bass Pro Shops.  We finally got out of Anchorage around 5 pm and  headed northeast on the Richardson Highway.  As soon as we left Anchorage, the houses fell away and we were surrounded by hills, streams, lakes and trees.  Once we got off the main highway, there was lupine and fireweed growing abundantly on either side.   The mountains in Alaska have a rugged feel to them, pristine, unspoiled, jagged.  We stopped at the Little Su (Susitina River) overlook, whose water flows down from the Gold Mint glacier.  Next stop, Independence Mine State Park.  The mine was in operation from 1906 to 1943 where it produced quite a bit of gold. The park has done a nice job of restoring some of the main buildings – Big Walts house, the assay building, cooks mess hall, but the main part of the mine is extremely dilapidated.  Rusted out parts, an old iron, chevron kerosene can, among other items, littered the area.  You could see where they kept their supplies (even though the roof had fallen in).   The water tunnel has been restored, as you walk in, you can feel the temperature drop 20 degrees.  The temperature inside the actual tunnel is a constant 38 degrees.
Our first night “camping” – it is very different being in a van then having to set up camp (tents, sleeping bags/pads, etc).  We stayed at the Gold Mint Trailhead/Campground - basically the parking lot to the trailhead with 8 spaces to camp, and a bathroom (non flush),  and no running water (that 7 gallon water container is really coming in handy).  There was a little bit of set up in the van that we will have to do nightly – set the beds up, make them, and put the blackout shades on all the windows.  This was the best first night camping sleep I think I have ever had.  I may just be a convert to the van lifestyle!
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