Roadtrippin’ 2022: There’s no place like Nome
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - He was surrounded by mosquitoes, nearly out of camera space, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with new friends on the hunt in Nome — not to kill anything, but instead to add another bird to his “life list.”
“This whole area, lots of birds here that you just don’t find elsewhere, not even in Alaska,” Jerry Hoekstra from Minnesota said.
For several days, the group drove slowly down the road in a white van gazing at the horizon searching for birds. Birding is a growing industry here in a town surrounded by tundra on three sides and the Bering Sea coast on the other.
Migration starts in May for many bird species.
“I’m called the S.O.B.,” one man called out to the group. “Called Spouse Of Birder.”
Birding is one of the main draws here to Nome where a growing number of visitors arrive from across the world. Nome is located on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound on the Bering Sea. At Pilgrim Hot Springs, about 60 miles north of Nome, they say most of their guests come from Germany. During the Solstice party this past weekend people from Kansas, Minnesota and Mississippi lined the parade route hands outstretched for the candy being tossed from the floats.
“We love the daylight,” the four yelled from Front Street.
While Nome may be best known for the Iditarod, it is also home to a thriving tourist business and mining. Saturday the annual “bank robbery” of the Wells Fargo happened after the parade. Hundreds of people lined Front Street, which is where mushers also finish their run in March.
“It is awesome. We’re having a great time. I’ve never seen a bank robbery before, this is awesome,” said one man said who yelled that he’s from Kansas.
Someone who hikes to Anvil Rock will be rewarded with sweeping views of the Bering Sea and Nome as well as the weaving of small roads that carve out the area where gold mining still happens. North of Nome, several Native corporations have teamed up to improve the property at Pilgrim Hot Springs where visitors soak in warm, healing waters.
The National Register of Historic Places property is located in remote Northwestern Alaska, nestled between Hen and Chickens Hill and the Kigluaik Mountain range.
According to the hot springs website: “Uunaqtuq” which is the Iñupiaq Qawiaraq dialect place name for Pilgrim Hot Springs. Unnaqtuq translates to English as: “it is warm or hot.”
Many have referred to Unaatuq as meaning “warm waters.”
It is also where the Catholic church kept the mostly Alaska Native children after their parents were killed by the flu of the 1900s — the caretaker here says there is a known number of children buried in a mass grave on the property.
The rich mining history also peppers Nome where the city boasts of having the world’s largest gold pan.
“It’s pretty cool,” a little girl said after jumping in the Bering Sea during the annual Polar Plunge.
Copyright 2022 KTUU. All rights reserved.