Nome, AK

A little over a week ago, I got the opportunity to travel to Nome, AK for the district’s Tech Liaison training. It was my first visit to Nome, which is odd since Nome is the largest “city” in the region (population – approx. 3,600). Most of the time was spent in the NACTEC house(Northwestern Alaska Career and Technical Center), where students from around the region come to learn technical and career skills during the school year and where we set up camp for 2 days in order to learn about the tools we use to keep technology in our schools up and running. I’m not going to write about the training except to mention that it is already making my life easier, instead, I’m going to write about Nome itself.

The first thing to know about Nome is that it is the only “wet” town in the region. Alaska has what is called a “Local Option” law which allows bush villages to decide to what degree alcohol is allowed into the village. Many towns (including Shaktoolik) choose not to allow the possession of alcohol (dry); others like Unalakleet allow the importation of alcohol but not its sale (damp). It doesn’t take long very long after landing in Nome to recognize the effect this has had on the town. Let’s simply say that drunks are not an uncommon sight and leave it at that…

Nome also has a reputation as a mining town and for those of you familiar with active mining towns in very remote locations, you already know what this means. For the rest of you… Nome is dirty. Nome is dingy and one could even call parts of it ramshackle. There’s a feeling of age, but also of haste; mining booms don’t leave much time for planning, zoning laws and strict oversight.

Underlying it all is the history of the town though. Everyone knows about the, Iditarod the annual dogsled race that commemorates the delivery of diphtheria serum from Anchorage via dogsled. Fewer people know that at one point, Nome was the largest town in Alaska; that the US Postal Service refused to allow the town to change it’s name to Anvil City in 1899 or that few of the original gold rush structures have survived numerous fires and violent storms. The history is what draws me to the town, it is what makes me want to visit it again sometime. It isn’t a place I’d like to live, but a place that would be interesting to study and learn about first-hand.

Note to readers: I spent less than 48 hours in Nome, most of that holed up inside a building training. I only spent 3-4 hours exploring the town (and that was spent on Front St.), this is what my viewpoint is based upon and is therefore reflective of a short-term visitor and not someone who lives there.