Last week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to one of the most remote parts of the United States, the great frontier of Alaska. I spent a couple of days in the near-Arctic coastal town of Nome and then another two days in the bustling city of Anchorage for work, getting a small taste of this far-away mega state in the process (see map below).
|Welcome to Nome|
One of the reasons for my trip up to Alaska was to attend an event that the National Park Service was hosting - a cultural celebration of Beringia, which is the region around the Bering Strait that includes both the United States and Russia. While you cannot, in fact, see Russia from the shores of Alaska, I did learn about the close historical and cultural ties between the people on both sides of the icy, rough waters that separate us from our Russian neighbors. I also got to experience a town most people have only heard about in reference to the early 20th century gold rush or the Iditarod dog sled races. Things I also learned about Nome while I was there include:
- Nome was once the most populous town in Alaska, with estimates ranging up to 20,000 at the height of the gold rush.
- Wyatt Earp once owned the most successful saloon/casino in Nome, earning a good living during his post-Tombstone retirement years.
- Total gold production for the Nome district has been at least 3.6 million ounces
Besides the standard meeting, greeting, and discussing of the issues that I was sent to Alaska to discuss, I also was able to learn about the Inupiat communities in Alaska and Russia, and to see first hand the similarities between them, through their dances, language, and food cultures.
Unfortunately my busy days of meetings and some misty, rainy weather didn't allow for much time outside of the "mini-conference center" (that is honestly what it was called). On our last afternoon we did go out looking for musk ox, which had been reported to be close to Nome. Apparently Nome is one of the few places in Alaska where you can find musk oxen close to a village. But, as would be the pattern for all of our attempts at seeing the wild, we were not successful in our hunt for musk ox. However, seeing the fall colors on the tundra is amazing, and the last blueberries and crowberries were ripe and plenty.
|Fall on the tundra|