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Gold and the Iditarod keep remote city busy
Nome, Alaska, gained fame more than 100 years ago for the fabulous wealth found in its mountains and its beaches of gold.
Today this boisterous town is famous also for being the destination of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Nome sits on south side of the Seward Peninsula of Western Alaska. It's 102 miles south of the Arctic Circle and 539 air miles from Anchorage. Immediately south of town is Norton Sound, part of the Bering Sea.
Nome has an estimated population of 3,448.
Nome's history is the stuff of legends.
Gold -- lots of gold -- was discovered in the late 19th century in the creeks above Nome and in the sandy beach. Although the gold-mining business has been reduced considerably from the days when Nome was 20,000-resident boomtown, one large company remains, tour companies help visitors pan for gold, and the beach east of Nome is open to free public panning and dredging.
In 1925, Nome gained a different kind of worldwide fame. A diphtheria epidemic struck the town, and bad weather prevented the delivery of serum by air from Anchorage. The serum was forwarded by train north to Nenana and then by dogsled relay to Nome. The delivery brought everlasting fame to Balto, the lead dog of the final team. This race against time was the inspiration for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and several movies.
The 1,100-mile Iditarod race, which starts in Anchorage, ends up in Nome in early to mid-March. The racers finish on Front Street, passing under an arch made of spruce. (The wood comes from somewhere else. Nome's trees can be counted on two hands.)
Anvil Mountain, north of Nome, was the site of a White Alice communications station during the Cold War. Nome is only 160 miles from Siberia.
The town reputedly got its name from a misread map, on which the question "Cape Name?" was read as "Cape Nome."
The golden hills around Nome harbor migratory waterfowl that come from around the world to nest and raise their young. Bears walk the hills, as do musk oxen, moose and caribou. Spawning salmon run up the streams.
Nome is south of the Arctic Circle, so it technically doesn't have 24-hour days. As a practical matter, it's close enough to the circle that for several weeks night is merely a bright twilight.
Nome's busy time is in early March during the Iditarod race. The first musher will arrive nine or 10 days after leaving Anchorage, and the also-rans will pull into town over the next week or so.
The Fourth of July is also party time, with the biggest celebration in Western Alaska.
In the summer, highs average in the mid-50s, with lows in the low to mid-40s. Highs may reach the mid-60s.
In the winter, the coldest three months are December through February, when the highs average about 13 degrees and the lows average a little below zero.
June will have the best combination of clear skies and warm temperatures. As the summer progresses, more rain can be expected.
Activities in Nome include a walking tour, guided sightseeing tours, flightseeing, goldpanning, biking, birding, fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing.
Alaska Airlines provides daily jet service from Anchorage and Kotzebue. Air time to Anchorage is about 75 minutes.
Several local carriers offer propeller-plane service to towns in the area. Flights to Siberian cities can be arranged, as can flightseeing trips over the Diomede Islands. Air taxi services can put visitors down in remote locations for fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing.
Cars and trucks can be rented in Nome for local travel and for expeditions up the three gravel roads leading out of Nome.
You cannot drive to Nome from any other city. There is no ferry service, either to Russia or to any other city in Alaska. Nome used to have a short railroad, but now there is no railroad service.