The Trail Back to Nome
Solomon Travel Blog› entry 28 of 38 › view all entries
I had planned to spend three nights at the Council camp but a problem with the helicopter in Nome sent me hurling back there a day early. I slowed more than necessary passing the area where I had spotted the grizzlies along the Fox River but they were nowhere to be seen. Instead, I saw rabbits - hundreds of them - between camp and Skookum Pass. After the pass, the road became dry and fast - up to 60 mph in some places. There was no other traffic. I breezed through Solomon and westward along the coast. The dry road became dusty and had long stretches of washboard surface. Road crews worked heavy equipment to re-grade it and flagmen slowed my progress.
Crossing the bridge at the mouth of Safety Sound, the road follows a narrow spit of land between that lengthy body of water and the Bering Sea.
Originally the Iditarod was called the Seward-to-Nome Mail Trail. Less than a hundred years ago sled dog teams were the primary traffic along this coast. They hauled mail and supplies from the ice-free port of Seward to the gold fields of the 'interior' including the golden coast of Nome. While steamships plied Alaska's waters in the short summers, the long and dark months of winter locked the Bering Sea and northern rivers in ice. The dog teams hauled supplies and mail in and gold out.
Small cabins dot the barren land between the mouth of Safety Sound and Cape Nome. Seemingly a vast wasteland, the area in fact supplies Inupiat Eskimos with year round subsistence. They harvest seal in the fall, tom cod in winter, walrus in spring, and salmon, berries, clams, and birds during the brief summer. Many of the cabins have driftwood racks for drying fish. The area attracts people from all over the world for bird watching, especially during their migrations in the spring and fall.
The road finally climbs and winds slightly around Cape Nome. At its point, heavy equipment and machinery collect hard rock dynamited from its cliffs. Huge trucks haul the rock to Nome for its seawall and the extension of the jetty protecting the small Port of Nome. More cabins line the beach toward Nome and several small mining operations work its shores, still recovering gold.
I went directly out to 'City Strip' which is the small general aviation gravel airstrip just north of town and fixed the helicopter. By 10:00 a.m. it was flying again and I went to the Polar Café for breakfast.