Alaska – Been There

Nome, Alaska, the last frontier

Velvet Eyes, raised from a fawn by Carl Emmons, is a well-known pet reindeer in Nome with a taste for blueberry pancakes. Reindeer are domesticated caribou, of which there are more than a million in Alaska, scattered in more than 30 distinct herds.

Photo by John Elk III / Getty Images

Alaska – Been There

Nome, Alaska, the last frontier

Nome is the last frontier, where you never know what you’ll see next. A pet reindeer, being taken for a walk or a ride in a truck, is only one of the normal sights.

Kate Eshelby
Kate Eshelby Travel Writer

Nome is known for its epic drinking, intensified by its extreme life. As one local jokes: “This is a drinking town with a mining problem.” Breakers, one of its saloons, has a long red bar with weathered-faced men sitting along it. All the surrounding towns are “dry” so the Inupiak like to come into Nome, and sway drunkenly down the streets.

At the back of the bar is a pool table and I play with David, a Mormon who now lives here, having turned his back on his family and religion. A picture depicting the Robert Service poem, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, hangs above us and smoke curls into the air. There are no smoking bans here.

A shot glass is put upside down in front of me, a sign that someone wants to buy me a drink. The locals are all friendly and ludicrously a group of us end up jumping into the Bering Sea for an evening dip (it is freezing) and then spilling out onto the street for a pizza late at night. And yet it’s still light – this is the land of midnight sun. I don’t see darkness for my whole trip and feel elated from the constant light.

“I love Nome,” says photographer Gilles Mingasson. “In the U.S., it is one of the only remaining frontier towns, where you almost expect to see fights in the bars at night. People are there because they want to be left alone. That is why you move to Nome.”

The Board of Trade saloon on Front Street, Nome, was established in 1898 during the early days of...

The Board of Trade saloon on Front Street, Nome, was established in 1898 during the early days of the first Gold Rush and is still the self-titled "Headquarters of the Sin City of Nome". Recent temporary restrictions on its license for allowing drunks to stay at the bar raised concerns that Nome was losing its rowdy Wild West image. Photo by Matthias Breiter / Alamy

Matthias Breiter

Matthias Breiter

Agency
Alamy

The Board of Trade saloon on Front Street, Nome, was established in 1898 during the early days of the first Gold Rush and is still the self-titled "Headquarters of the Sin City of Nome". Recent temporary restrictions on its license for allowing drunks to stay at the bar raised concerns that Nome was losing its rowdy Wild West image.