Although Covid-19 has quieted Alaska’s typical summer season tourism buzz, guides from Salmon Berry Journey & Excursions are staying busy. The Anchorage-based firm took over operations at Independence Mine State Historic Park in June.
Salmon Berry has run reward retailers previously, however full administration contracts are a brand new enterprise for the operator. Co-owner Mandy Garcia, who discovered of the Independence Mine alternative days earlier than the state’s deadline for concessionaire purposes, concerned her employees members within the determination.
“As tour operators, lots of us are pondering six months out, a 12 months out, perhaps two years out,” Garcia stated. “Covid has restricted us to creating selections on a month-to-month, weekly or generally even day by day foundation. As a consensus, the workforce determined that we actually did have to suppose farther outdoors the field.”
Independence Mine State Historic Park, positioned at Hatcher Go, contains early twentieth century buildings, interpretive websites and climbing trails that fall underneath the Alaska State Parks system umbrella. Garcia known as the positioning within the Talkeetna Mountains, north of the cities of Willow and Palmer, “a hidden gem.”
“Guests touring to Alaska wish to do one thing off the crushed path. Hatcher Go and Independence Mine are actually distinctive,” she stated. “You have received every part right here. If you’d like historical past, there’s a lot. If you’d like the outside, you will discover straightforward hikes and considerably extra strenuous hikes. You are up within the mountains at 3,500 toes of elevation, with peaks throughout you, and it is solely an hour and a half from Anchorage.”
In taking up Independence Mine operations for the 2020 season, Garcia noticed a chance to develop guided excursions, improve family-friendly actions, and supply extra consistency for Alaska residents and out-of-state guests alike.
“Beforehand, you bought to enter any of the buildings that had been open on a given day. Typically there could be one constructing open, and generally there could be a number of buildings. This 12 months, we determined to maintain three buildings absolutely open, on a regular basis, for day-pass guests. The three inform a very good story of the mine,” she stated.
These buildings embrace the assay workplace, the place shows doc the gold mining and milling course of. Reveals within the supervisor’s home characteristic individuals who labored at Independence Mine and doc the ability’s historical past, with a particular deal with the interval between 1938 and 1950.
Collections in bunkhouse No. 2 highlight employee housing and hand instruments utilized by the miners. A small cafe and retail counter occupies the constructing’s former recreation room, and visitors can lease gold-panning gear to make use of within the close by creek.
For people excited by digging deeper, Salmon Berry’s guided excursions chronicle life on the mine and discover further buildings on the state park. Along with viewing the mess corridor and an residence constructing, guests see the variations in residing preparations for line employees, supervisors and kitchen staffers.
On every tour, Garcia and her workforce members tailor historic context and pure highlights to the pursuits of tourists.
“It might be so simple as, ‘My household and I wish to see as many wildflowers as potential.’ We have now naturalist guides who can try this, and we even have a information who makes a speciality of space hikes. He is aware of native routes just like the again of his hand, and he has a wealth of information concerning the mine, as effectively,” she stated. “Different individuals simply actually wish to study gold panning. In that occasion, I speak concerning the milling course of and the way it’s completely different from different gold mining operations, and we focus on the historical past of gold mining. Then, we spend time down within the creek displaying visitors the place to dig and learn how to discover gold.”
The utmost measurement for Salmon Berry’s non-public Independence Mine excursions is 12.
“Most of this 12 months’s mine excursions are non-public by family or trusted group,” Garcia stated. “For those who join upfront collectively, you give you individuals in your bubble, and also you acknowledge that you are a trusted group, you then go on tour collectively.”
Salmon Berry has applied a number of pandemic-related protocols for summer season guests. Masks are required on all excursions and in all buildings, and buildings are fogged with sanitizer every night. Entrances to the mine buildings stay open throughout tour hours, which eliminates the necessity to contact doorknobs. A touchless fee system can be out there.
“Proper now, our hope is that individuals are accountable after they journey. That is our largest message,” Garcia stated. “Put on your masks. Be accountable. For those who’ve received the possibility to do a picnic outdoors at Hatcher Go, for instance, select the picnic versus consuming inside.”
Actions within the Hatcher Go neighborhood supply wealthy daytrip choices, she added.
“You’ll be able to tour the Musk Ox Farm. You are able to do a kayak tour in Eklutna. You’ll be able to go to the Friday Fling markets in Palmer. You’ll be able to go climbing at Thunderbird Falls. There’s so much to make a visit into no matter you need it to be, and I feel including Independence Mine to the to-do checklist units tour operators’ holidays aside.”
Salmon Berry will function Independence Mine State Historic Park excursions via Sept. 30. Costs begin at $15 per individual for adults; $12 for Alaska residents, navy members and seniors; and $5 for kids underneath age 2.
Gold pan leases, together with an illustration, are $5 per individual.
Day-use charges are $5 per automobile, or free for Alaska State Parks passholders.
For Independence Mine tour bookings, name Salmon Berry Journey & Excursions at (907) 278-3572.