2015 Alaska Trip travel blog

World's largest gold pan

Polar Cafe entrance

Goldrush era Catholic church w/lighted cross

Nome Community Garden

End of Iditarod race

Leonhard Seppala Cabin

Nome fuel prices

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

We were up at 4:30 am to catch the 7:00 flight to Nome. Almost missed the plane because Jean had a full bottle of water in her carry-on bag and hey made her go back out through security and dump it out. My bag got checked and I lost a large size tube of toothpaste. One & 1/2 hours later we landed in Nome to 50 degree weather and rain showers. The cab had left the airport before we got outside. A pickup truck pulled up dropping off some gold miners who were headed out. Jean went up to the driver and asked for a lift into town. Sam Massey thought about it for a minute then agreed to give us a ride. The pickup was so high off the ground that his mechanic, Denver, had to get a ladder out of the back to help us in.

Sam & Denver have a gold mine outside of town. They are members of the Goldminers Association of Alaska. Their mining season starts July 1 and was ending. They were leaving town the next day. They gave us a little tour and recommended someplace to eat and a few sights to see. They dropped us off at the Visitor's Center in town. We stopped into the Center and picked up a walking tour map then headed down the street to the Polar Cafe for breakfast.

The restaurant was very nice inside. We ate at a table overlooking the Bering Sea. The high tide as coming in and the surf was rolling. I knew prices were high in Alaska, but in Nome everything has to come in by boat or be flown in. Two eggs, hash browns, and toast cost $13.50. A side of reindeer sausage was an additional $10. But the food was good.

We walked down historic Front Street. Because there had been several fires in Nome that burned the town down, the street had been widened as a fire protection. It was the equivalent of a four lane road. Even though the street and sidewalks had been paved and were no longer dirt and wood, we still got the feel of the old energy of the gold rush days.

Apparently there is no longer a lot of money in Nome. The historic tour was a lot of run down buildings. The cabin of Leonhard Seppala was just a run down shack. He was the man who, with his dog team, brought the diptheria serum into town in 1911 to save the residents. A feat commemorated each year by the Iditarod.

We met a native woman from St Lawrence Island who let us take hr photo. She told us to go to the Senior Center for lunch. We walked over to Anvil City Square, a city park. There we saw Umiak frames on display. An umiak is a walrus skin covered boat which the people used to use for transportation and for whale hunting. We also saw the St Joseph Catholic Church built in 1901 during the Gold Rush. When it was an active church it had a lighted cross which served as a beacon for returning boats. While I was taking pictures, Johnny stopped and asked if I wanted my picture taken in front of the church. Johnny is a native of King Island in the Bering Sea. The island is now uninhabited and the residents all moved to the mainland. King Island is a mountain that goes straight up and the buildings are all built along the shoreline and up the mountain. They were totally dependent on everything being brought in by ship. If the last scheduled ship of the season couldn't make it because of early ice forming, the residents went without heating fuel, food, clothing, and their priest for the winter. The priest came only for the winter and did all the baptisms and marriages during that time.

We did stop by the Senior Center but didn't eat. Elders get lunch for $3. They had a homemade stew that looked and smelled wonderful but we had had a late breakfast. They did some singing before and after lunch. After lunch they sang some songs in Inupiaq. Jean stayed to sing because she was tired. I went wandering and to replace my toothpaste. The Senior Center not only has exercises but there is are also rooms for Ivory carving and skin sewing. The restrooms each had wet and dry saunas. (Take note Bridget). The native peoples subsistence hunt & fish all summer to stock up for winter. The senior Center had large walk-in freezers for storage for the elder's subsistence food.

On my walking tour I found a way to walk to the beach. Because the town is built right on the water there are humoungous granite boulders lining the waterfront to protect the buildings. Our waitress had told us that during violent storms the water washes over the boulders and hits the windows of the restaurant and floods the basements along Front Street. I had to pick my way along the beach because the tide was out and it was a big mud flats. I tried to do a timed selfie photo of me touching the Bering Sea but it turned out blurry. I also visited the Community Garden. I don't know who does the work but the produce is there for anyone to use.

I walked back to the Senior Center to get Jean. We went back to the Visitors Center and watched a video about the area. I am so sorry we did not know to rent a car and take a drive. There are 3 roads out of Nome that go to Native villages. The longest road is 83 miles. Along it we would have seen herds of Musk Ox. After the video, Jean napped and Pam went shopping for postcards. We had a very late lunch at the Polar Cafe then got a cab ride to the airport.

We were very early to the airport because I had seen the crush of people waiting to leave when we arrived and the check in kiosk was broken. I wanted to be early to get our boarding passes before the rush. It was interesting sitting there watching people. One lady shipped 7 large rubbermaid tubs plus her large suitcase. We wondered if she was shipping fish or moving. Many people came with their items in unsealed cardboard boxes.

The airport is very small - just one large room. It only serves one airline, Alaska Air. I watched a TSA inspector take everything out of a large suitcase and then repack it. I was glad we were traveling light with just backpacks. We were TSA prechecked which meant that we should have breezed through security. However ----

Since we both had knee replacements we set off the alarms. We had to remove all liquids from our packs, take off our shoes and get patted down. We were holding up the line because the area was so small no one else could come through security until we were done. Finally got on the plane.

We landed in Kotzebue about 7:30 pm. to 50 degrees and rain showers. We got a cab ride to the Nullagvik Hotel. (Nullagvik is an Inupiaq word meaning resting place). It is very modern - only 4 years old. The original hotel was falling down so they build this new one. The elevators run on the room key card so no one can go above the first floor unless they have a room key. From our room we have a view of the Chukchi Sea.

We dropped our luggage and hurried to the dining room before it closed at 9pm. We had the traditional Inupiaq reindeer stew served with garlic bread. The dining room had large windows overlooking Shore Street and the ocean. After eating we walked across the street to look at a waterfront display then headed to bed. It had been a long day.

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