What is now called Independence Mine was once two mines: The Alaska Free Gold (Martin) Mine on Skyscraper Mountain, and Independence Mine on Granite Mountain. In 1938 the two were bought together under one company, the Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Company (APC). With a block of 83 mining claims, APC became the largest producer in the Willow Creek Mining District. The claims covered more than 1,350 acres and included 27 structures. In its peak year, 1941, APC employed 204 men, blasted nearly a dozen miles of tunnels, and produced 34,416 ounces of gold worth $1,204,560; today $17,208,000. Twenty-two families lived in nearby Boomtown, with eight children attending the Territorial School in the new bunkhouse. (from dnr.alaska.gov)The short way to get here There's a long and scenic way to get here. And there's a short and sensible way to get here. Since we visited at the end of June the route over Hatcher Pass Road was just opening to drivers. We drove up from Palmer along Fishhook-Willow Road and it was very beautiful, but not as lengthy as we heard about along Hatcher Pass. Once there, the Visitor Center had lots of exhibits and we happened to arrive at the time of a tour by a volunteer geologist. It was a little long, but we could have jumped off the tour at any time. It's just interesting to be up there and explore the area. There are many trails to take and views to photograph. You can even check out pans for gold if you give them your driver's license and try your hand in the stream.