Wednesday, June 26, 2013

back from nome, installment one of probably too many.

 i'm a terrible traveler. once i'm there i'm fine, but getting ready and getting to the place is always stressful.  as far as flights go though it was uneventful from anchorage to nome. i grabbed a cab from the airport to the hotel.  couldn't find anyone to share it, but in the end it was only a $6 ride to the aurora inn.
 my room wasn't ready and wouldn't be ready til closer to 2pm.  things run a bit differently in the bush of alaska.  do not expect the same service you would get in a five star hotel, but do expect to pay five star hotel costs. the same is true with the car rental.  it's rent a wreck at rent a ferrari prices.  i'm used to it and i find it to be just one of those quirks of travel in alaska.  things move at a different pace and you just have to go with the flow.  if you stress out you will not make friends with the staff there.  you depend on them though.  there won't be another hotel or car rental place in many instances so you have to learn to let it go a bit.
 a boat was in town with tourists so i just wandered around town for a few hours.  the cab driver said a plane from florida unloads tourists who then board this boat, the plane then takes back the tourists who were on board.  the boat sails here and then over to russia and japan i think. a long sea voyage like that really doesn't interest me.  all that open water, not much to see for days on end.
 it's almost disorienting being out at sea and unable to see any land to navigate or orient yourself.  i actually found that same thing to be true while driving on day three.  a sea of land surrounds you and it all looks the same and there is seemingly nothing to orient to.
 ended up in the handicapped room.  i guess i am a bit of a handicapped traveler.  going it alone was fine.  i really had no issues with being out there by myself.  the only thing that really sucked about being alone was not splitting the price of the hotel, the car rental and the gas.  driving isn't something one really wants to do with a large crowd.  everyone wants a window seat so you really need to keep it at 4 or less.  people backed out.  i was able to flit around and do as i pleased, when i pleased.  wander around to places and spend as much time or as little time as i wanted.
 once i was in my rental car i decided to head down the road to council.  i never made it to council, though you can't really get there in a rental car.  the locals cross a river in their cars and others cross it by boat i guess.  at some point that first day i ran out of energy. i was getting sleepy and hungry. i turned back towards nome.
on the way though the road follows the beaches for the first 30 miles.  it was my favorite road over the week.  never got as far back again as i did that day.  i went back to about mile 60-65 i think.  it goes back 72 miles.
 along the way by the beaches there were all these little fish camps.  salmon are caught and cut up for drying on drying racks.  the buildings are pretty dillapetated.  there are some that are inhabited.  of course, the houses in town look amazing rough as well.  i'm amazed that people survive the winters in these buildings that appear to be ready to fall over.  of course, perhaps compared to what their ancestors existed in as nomads in these same lands, any solid building may be a comfort.
 there are mounds seen as well that are remnants of the more nomadic past when they burrowed into the land, used driftwood to form a frame and then put walrus hides over the top.  i was obsessed this first day with these weathered buildings and outbuildings.
 hard to get rid of stuff in a place as remote as nome, but then again, things can be used over and over again for parts too i suppose..  old crap is laying around all over the place.  modern life just grows over the past.
 i stopped often on that first drive out.  just had to take pictures of all the cool stuff out there.  i'm sure i could have wandered around the places and taken hundreds of photos.  the places are privately owned though so i stuck to the road.  suspect i was a bit shy that first night as well.  i know i stuck out like a sore thumb to all the locals.  best to be respectful and gain their trust rather than tick them off by being an annoying tourist.
 i think a lot of birders go out there.  there is even a guide dude that was taking the birders around.  they'd log in what they had seen.  i saw little birds and bigger birds.  took a few pictures of them.
 for how few trees there are in the far north it is impressive how much driftwood exists there.  the currents keep the population supplied with good wood though.
 many of the houses are fairly far back from the road like these.  the road follows the shore but winds in and out.
 more piles of driftwood.
 we have quite a bit of daylight here in anchorage but nothing like they have up in nome and further north.  the sun apparently won't return below the horizon and actually set until sometime in august. it's tough to sleep when you know it's beautiful outside.  you feel obligated to be out there enjoying and indeed the locals seemed to never go home and sleep.  kids were out biking at all hours of the day/night.  who could blame them, in the winter they are in total darkness.  i do feel tired now though from the lack of sleep.  kept thinking in anchorage i would sleep even when it's light.  i think when you are on vacation too you want to squeeze it all in and you can do that better when the sun never sets, but at some point you do get tired.  the never ending light does play tricks on you.
 strange to have afternoon light to drive and beach comb to despite it being midnight or 1 am.  hard to put that into words i is just something best experienced.  not sure i want to go north in the winter and experience totaly darkness and the sun never rising above the horizon.  by the time the iditarod comes along the sun is getting some time up there.
 the skies and clouds were lovely all week.  i'm always a fan of clouds like these.
 below is one of many varieties of fish drying stations.  i was a bit bummed as the salmon hadn't really began running yet so there were no fish drying out on these racks. one wants that classic shot.  i did get lucky in teller later in my week there.  worth the drive out just for that.
 someone turned a driftwood log over with it's roots up to get a tree.  i guess a the end of this road the cool thing is that trees are found there.  one of the girls at the front desk told me about the trees.  very exciting as they can be a rare commodity in these parts.
 these camps are close enough to town they could come and go i supposed and not really have to sleep in these buildings.  some do look livable though.  like i said, many of the houses in town looked pretty rough.  there were some better parts of town with more well built/modern houses.
 there were various outhouses at different levels of usablility.  this one below is an open floor plan.
 a strong wind would wipe it out though.
 i'd brought a bag of various food items to try and limit the money i spent on food out.  i think i did get a subway sandwich as there is actually a subway store in town.  it was a few doors down from the hotel.  i never ask for double meat but the kid slammed loads of meat on there both times i went there for a meal.  that first evening they were out of tomatoes but happily the next time i ate there they had tomatoes.  saw a kid shoplift chips. i'm sure of it.
 lots of drunks wandering around at most hours of the day/night as well.  it felt a bit like being in an old wild west town or what i would assume it was like to be in an old wild west town back in the day.  minimal police involvement.  a saw a few state troopers on patrol, but i think it's a small staff to deal with all the possible infractions.  i think they mostly police themselves.  it's a small town so everyone knows everyone and knows who's up to what.
 loved this sculpture by one of the structures of a native with a dog.  the boat is typical historical native boat.  they would stretch hides over the frame.
 the same house also had a decorative outhouse.  candy kisses.  haha!
 not sure if the tepee like structures are smoke houses or steam rooms.  there were a few around as well. the camps were mostly empty as i drove past. i'm guessing things pick up with the salmon running here soon.
 basketball is popular in the native culture.  obviously, that was a sport brought up north to them.  there is some pretty stiff competitions between villages in the sport though.  saw a few hoops such as this around town with kids playing on them.  you do what you do to have fun, kids always do anyway.
 water was cold, but the temperatures were warm.  i saw several kids playing in the surf on the beaches.  one gentleman on the plane said the kids were jumping in the river in his village.  he said the temperatures got over 100 in some parts.
 another native from another village was complaining about the heat.  she prefers winter weather to this heat. a few kids were returning to villages after flying to anchorage for dental work.  the native kids have terrible dental cavities.  from what i have heard soda is cheap and lots of kids drink loads of it.  there isn't much for dental care.  there has been some controversy over lay people being trained to handle basic dental necessities in the villages.  not enough actual dentists are willing to fly to the various places in alaska though so some care is better than none at all.   the kids were proudly showing me all their new silver teeth.  one was maybe 3 and the other 5-6 i think.
 it is good to be home i must say.  i missed the puppies.  rio was having issues with colitis and got taken to the vet last night.  i think she'll perk up here being at home again.  she's happily snoring on the couch.  for sure she is more sedate than normal.  though that can be hard to tell really.  she is a creature of habit so i think being home will help. i did give her a bland diet tonight of steamed rice and cottage cheese.  she's farting and hasn't vomited or had any loose stools.  i think we are on the good end of it.
 so the kids with the dental work were from noatak and the older guy i flew up next to was from noorvik.  nome is on the seward peninsula. my plane went from anchorage to nome and then up to kotzebue.  so on the way back we stopped in kotzebue.  we just unloaded and reloaded.
 nome is a gold rush town and continues to be.  there are now those tv shows that show the people dredging for gold.  i did see quite a bit of gold mining activities on small scales such as the small dredge boats in the water and people on shore digging up sand and then panning for gold with it.  i didn't spend any time over my week looking for gold, though perhaps i should have considering the costs of everything.  beach combing i did find a chunk of ivory and that $20.
 another tepee looking structure along with many cool burled trees.  speaking of burled arches...i never did locate the official iditarod burled arch.  it is rolled out for the festivities and when i was there i discovered a guy was in town just to spruce it up.  not sure where it was at.  it was kinda like where's waldo all week trying to find the thing.  oh well.
 on that first day i made it out to the train to nowhere.  when the gold rush started investors worked to build this amazing rail system on the seward peninsula.  the gold rush ended and after much difficulties getting the rail built it had only gone about 30 miles was abandoned, like so many things in the north and there it sits.
 cool old stuff. lots of that out there.  mostly though there is expanses of land that is still basically untouched. there are miles and miles of beaches.  i got obsessed with beachcombing and knew it was probably best i left or i would have had a suitcase full of beach soveniers.  as it is i was able to fill a large vase with all the sea urchin shells i found.
 the seward peninsula is part of the bering sea land bridge.  from the bering strait to the russian shores of siberia is mere 55 miles. at times in the past that distance would be covered with ice and could be traveled by foot and not by sea. the actual national preserve is on the north end of the seward peninsula.  obviously i never was in the actual preserve.  not many are.  i do see there are several "shelter cabins" located in the preserve, not sure what kind of shelter they provide or how one would access them. after seeing the mosquito swarms on my last day out this road i think i'm good.  more on that later.
 unpacking and doing laundry...all those post trip things one does.  need to pay bills and but will probably wait til tomorrow.  i did balance the check book and go over all my reciepts from the trip.  the lawn is mowed as well.  there was some mosquito action,but again i really shouldn't complain after what i saw yesterday.  yikes!!  posted pictures on facebook with lots of response.
 i was able to take a break in the evenings and load photo's onto this laptop and then post a smathering from the day to facebook.  i was on vacation but since i was alone it was nice to have that interaction with friends and family.  it was like i wasn't really alone up there, they were all kinda with me.
 i never drove back this far again though yesterday at night i came pretty close i guess.  i put in a lot of miles on this trip, both in the car and along the beaches.
 bird...some sort of sandpiper.
 my rental car got me out to where i needed to be and back.  it was a bit rough and tumble, but i felt kinda bad for any car in these circumstances.  it's like a place where bad cars go so i tried to be kind to my metal friend.  those roads are rough as are the tourists that undoubtably drive them.  this car had clearly been through some minor wrecks.  no idea how much maintenence the thing gets, i wasn't even sure if the car had a spare tire and decided it was best not to look. it did.  the windshield was cracked as was the side mirror and for some reason you couldn't open the door if the drivers side window was down, though it only would go down half way anyway.
 my car was #40.  the number was easily in view so anyone in town was sure to know it was a rental car.  i watched for other numbered cars while i was out on the road.  we were the out of towners.

 have loads of photo's to post. so like the glacier trip you will have to bear with me rambling on about all the cool stuff of nome.  i quite enjoyed myself.
 it was totally relaxing.  i especially loved walking the beaches each night into the wee hours.  felt like a kid again.  peering down at the tide line for trinkets.  always a fond memory and so much fun no matter how old i get.
 the sea urchins are in the vase and the sea glass is in the cats water looks so much better wet.
 started to see some wildflowers along the way on that first road trip out council.  the other two roads i spent much more time seeking out wildflowers.  in those i was up in the tundra and those are always cool flowers.
 the tundra was super dry.  it's been hot and there hasn't been much for rain. it did rain last night though so i suspect the tundra will light up this week with flowers more than i was able to see. the ground up here is permafrost which means that it remains frozen about a foot or two down.  since it's frozen the top part that melts doesn't drain down so it pools on top often.  so the tundra is boggy and moist.  great mosquito environment, but also it sucks up the co2 in the summertime.  there are many worries about global warming and much of the worry stems from the melting of the permafrost in these northern climates. the co2 tends to stay absorbed and isn't released due to the rapid freeze.
well, i shall retire for the night.  it's actually dusk here in anchorage.  our days will begin to get shorter and shorter starting now.  great trip and i look forward to sharing it with you in stories and photographs.


  1. Wonderful pictures. I finally got to sit down and read posts before bed tonight. Poor Rio. As for the Quiviut, it would need scoured badly. Look forward to seeing more and I'm glad you had a good time. Wish I could be back there with you. That's two more trips I wish I could have gone to play on.

  2. scoured....what is that? the baggies are on the back deck...too stinky to bring inside. would have loved to have had you on this trip!! we would have laughed and laughed!!

  3. Scoured means you've cleaned out the crap... It's much more gentle than it sounds but it is a washing pieces that will remove much of the dirt and oil from the remaining fiber.