“I’ve been having a very king crabby year. Just so you know, I’m not complaining.”

We stop by the visitor’s center to get a map of the roads around Nome. Don’t laugh. There are over 250 miles of road out of Nome, far more than any other remote Alaskan town I’ve ever been in. You can drive 72 miles to Teller, an Inupiaq subsistence village, 73 miles to Council, a gold rush ghost town (but you are advised to ford the river only in company of a local, as you won’t know where the holes are), and 85 miles to Kougarok Mountain, not to mention the four and a half miles to the top of Anvil Mountain, which is where local photographer Peggy Fagerstrom drives us our first night in town. Peggy was born in Candle, the start of All-Alaska Sweepstakes dog sled race, back before there was an Iditarod, and she knows who lives in every house we pass and their family going back three generations, and she’s related to most of them, too. From Anvil Mountain you can look down on Anvil Creek, where the Three Lucky Swedes hit it big in 1898, even if one of them was a Norwegian. Turn right one step and you’re looking down at Dexter on the Nome River, and what’s left of Wyatt Earp’s roadhouse. Turn right and— oops. You’re stepping into a pile of round brown pellets that Peggy informs you is musk ox poop.

Dana Stabenow. Alaska Traveler (Kindle Locations 3131-3139). Gere Donovan Press.

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