When in Nome

Jun 24, 2012 | 1 comment

Once again, I have more to write about than I could possibly fit into a post, so instead I’ll share some of the pictures I took during my very busy day yesterday.  
View of Nome from the hill

Started off the morning with a tundra hike with ranger Katie and one of the other temporary staff members, a teacher from Pennsylvania (coincidentally, the same part of PA where I worked last summer!). We drove up to a place called Newton Point just outside of Nome, and hiked up the slope.

Distant mountain range

It was rather cold, windy, and stark, but as we proceeded I began to realize that the real diversity of the landscape lies in the plethora of tundra flora covering the soft ground. Dozens of species of wildflower, low-growing willows, grasses, mosses, and lichens grew on top of each other.

One of the most exciting moments for me was coming upon a pair of Long-tailed Jaegers — a bird I’ve always wanted to see before! They must have had ground nests somewhere nearby because they were dive bombing us until we moved on. 

An antler fragment on the hill

Snow! In June!

 Once we reached the ridge, it was even colder and windier, but the view was spectacular. Beyond a field of blue wildflowers stretched the Alaskan tundra, disappearing into the distant blue haze.

We were enjoying the view when suddenly I spotted a large brown object on the horizon. My heart sped up for a second as it began lumbering away, so I quickly pointed it out. We are deep in bear country here, and had been taking precautions the entire hike up, but I still wasn’t sure what we would do if we actually saw a bear. Well, we all took a closer look, and then relaxed — it was a herd of muskox!

I was super excited. They were all just laying down in the grass, doing whatever muskoxes do.

Rock formations, and Cold War missile detectors in the back

Moose scat

Some species of Avens I think

Unidentified cool flower

After our 2 hour hike, we hurried back to town, arriving just in time for the annual Midnight Sun parade. It was easily the strangest parade I’ve ever seen, but quite hilarious and nice to see people actually out and about.

Downtown Nome

Start of the parade

The Christine Rose is a gold dredger featured on the
Discovery Channel show

Thar be pirates in Nome

Advertising for the Polar Bear Swim later that day

String band float

Richard, a bank robbery character

After the parade, everyone meandered down the road to the local Wells Fargo, where a mock bank robbery was scheduled for high noon. All the children were incredibly excited; apparently this tradition has been going  on for something like 20 or 30 years.

Setting up for the robbery

Wyatt Earp reenactor

 Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the bank robbery because I couldn’t see it that well, but they had some sort of little story about bad guys coming to town and Wyatt Earp killing them all. Lots of fake gunshots and smoke, and the kids loved it.

After a lunch break, I joined the NPS staff again for a trip down to East Beach for the annual Polar Bear Swim. It was somewhat far away, so they all hopped onto a four-wheeler and I followed on Katie’s bike. By then, the weather had turned for the worse, and it was cold, rainy, and windy, but nonetheless a massive crowd was gathered at the edge of the sea when I arrived. I opted to stay dry and take pictures for everyone.

Some of my coworkers getting ready for the plunge

It was quite an event. After getting the crowd pumped up, a siren started and there was a mad dash for the sea and then an equally mad dash to get out of the sea. Up on the beach there were bonfires for everyone to warm up, and fundraisers selling towels and shirts to the freezing cold participants.

The kids loved it

Some people even stayed in to play…

… others got out as quickly as possible

After that, I biked back to the bunkhouse and got soaking wet in the heavy drizzle that was now coming down. I relaxed for a while and then in the evening joined the staff for a trip to Folk Fest at the local elementary school.

It was a lot smaller than I expected, but it was neat to see all the local artisans and craft-makers selling their wares, as well as listen to the local musicians (including “Eskimo Elvis” whose signature song was a monotone “ay-ay-ya-aye” and some really good string bands).

Well, sorry for such a long post, but it was a very long day and probably more excitement than I’ll have for the rest of my time here! 🙂 At any rate, tentative plans for today include exploring, possibly fishing, and possibly birding. Should be fun!

1 Comment

  1. Steve

    “Sorry for the long post”, what a laugh. This post was great! The pics, the stories, the local color. More, more!

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