Huskies beat horsepower on the way into Nome, when a dogsled team beat our bus
Nome's story is of the gold rush era, current gold-mining
efforts, reindeer herding, commercial fishing and dog sledding.
Our introduction to Nome was a race between our bus on the road
and a sled dog team on the beach (The huskies won.) Afterwards,
we peppered the musher, as he was called, with questions about
the Iditarod, the legendary dog sled race across Alaska, with its
finish line in Nome.
At Little Creek Mining Station, we panned for gold and were
actually able to haul in four gold flakes and a tiny nugget. We
then met a personable reindeer in full velvet that let us touch
its warm antlers. Domesticated wild caribou and reindeer have
long provided food and skins for native people of the region.
Nome and Kotzebue whet our appetites for the far north. Our
flight from Anchorage provided a spectacular view of Mt. McKinley (Denali)
en route to Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay. This region, 250 miles (400 kilometers)
north of the Arctic Circle, is one of the most remote areas in
North America. We flew into Deadhorse to find an August
wind-chill factor of 28 degrees (-2 Celsius), and not a single horse, dead or alive.
What we did find were our motor coach and the most highly
concentrated business activity on the entire North Slope, thanks
to one of this century's richest oil strikes. Prudhoe Bay is the
largest oil field in North America, currently transporting 20
percent of the nation's domestic oil production. Here oil begins
its long journey through the Trans-Alaska pipeline to Valdez, the
northernmost ice-free port in North America. One of the largest
pipeline systems in the world, this was an awesome engineering
feat. The route covers 800 miles (1,280 km), crosses three mountain ranges
and countless rivers and streams.