“Happy 4th of July”

We got up bright and early from our night at the Dredge No. 7 Inn. A dredge is a piece of equipment that sits on water and processes sand and rock for gold. The historic dredges were very large – they almost looked like hotels with large mechanical appendages on both the front and rear. Today, there is a range of personal crafts, large and small, still looking for gold in Alaska – Nome is no different.

Image of the outside of a bed and breakfast

Our lodging for this adventure is Dredge No. 7 Inn – Nome, Alaska

Image of An historic dredge located on the Teller Highway, Alaska

An historic dredge located on the Teller Highway, Alaska

Image of a modified looking dredge

Modern personal dredge near the Teller Highway, Alaska.

We bid farewell to our host at the inn, she was planting artificial flowers in front of the inn on account of finally giving up on the weather. She said she had a garage full of flowers but did not think they would survive in the temperatures this year. Michael Googled espresso on GMaps to find that the closest latte was Anchorage (not true), so we opted to head out and track down coffee the old fashion way. We found Bering Tea and Coffee and settled in with a couple of lattes that weren’t half bad. While enjoy our morning coffee, we chatted up with a couple of seasonal gold miners from Minnesota.

Image of the outside of an inn with artificial flowers for decoration

Artificial flowers are the only option for color this summer – due to the cold. The inside of the garage is sure colorful though!

Reed, his brother, and his dad Jesse have been gold panning in Nome for the past few weeks. He said they are doing fair, but it is tough and dirty work and he has had his fill. He had dreamed about giving it a shot, and although glad he did, he is crossing off gold mining on his list. “You have to be built a certain way” he said, and “I’m not built that way.” He talked about how wonderful it was to come back to civilization (he was referring to Nome), and that he missed his children. He has been living in a plywood shanty on the beaches of Nome. He was struggling with separating the black sand from the gold, but took comfort in the fact that the old timers were having the same problems. We chatted about the nice things in life like pizza and coffee and 4th of July parades.

Image of a man (Reed) sitting quietly with a latte

Reed enjoys quiet time with his latte. Welcome back to civilization!

Michael and I moved on to watch the 4th of July parade on Front Street. Everyone was so excited. I have not seen people so genuinely excited about anything in a long time. Everyone was smiling and greeting us with “Happy 4th of July,” kids were screaming and dancing and dressed in costumes, and all ages kept looking down the street for the start of the parade. We had a great time watching a small town parade with no frills – fire trucks and cop cars, walkers, horses, miscellaneous animals, bikes. About the only thing missing from the parade were the gnarly guys on Harleys. Ohhh wait for it… they were here, except on 4-wheelers. The Mormon missionaries were even on 4- wheelers.

Image of a man on a four-wheeler with a sign reading "Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints"

Mormons on Wheels?

Image of the rear end of the parade with a large crowd of people on four-wheelers

My other chopper is a 4-wheeler…

Image of Nomites standing and watching the parade

Nomites enjoy the parade.

Image of people walking in the parade

Parade participants

Image of people sitting on a four-wheeler wearing gnome costumes and riding through the parade

The Gnomes of Nome

Once the parade ended, we headed out of town on the first of three roads to explore this weekend, the Teller Highway (officially called the Bob Blodgett Highway). The dirt road stretches about 75 miles north to the Inupiat village of Teller. We had been warned the road was in rough condition, and there were no services at the end, including gas. We packed a lunch and the camera and headed north.

Image of the Teller highway stretching north

The Teller Highway stretches north into vast wilderness.

Image of some rocks and sticks placed together to represent a road marker

Road marker for a fishing camp.

The scenery was spectacular and wildlife plentiful. Aside from musk oxen, we saw grizzly bears (too far to photograph well with my crappy camera), moose (too skittish to stay put for long), and a large eagle’s nest that was occupied. All the wildlife had something in common; it was the largest we have ever seen in Alaska. In the case of the eagle, we were sure that if the bird flew off with a dog it could handle a German Shepard instead of just a terrier!

The road was not too bad (either that or we have developed a tough scale), although in one section the washboard ruts were so bad the airbag light went on, and we lost electricity to the speedometer and RPM gauge completely. I fretted, because the last time that happened to me the alternator went out shortly thereafter. We checked the mileage; we could still turn around and head back. Michael smacked the dash and everything came back on. He declared it a problem with the dash, not the alternator, so we kept heading north. We saw few people, maybe six the whole ride up, and half were fishing or gold panning while the other half we passed driving the other direction. The land was made up of gentle rolling hills, barren landscapes, and lots of water. It reminded me of a desert (minus the water part), where the colors are subtle and the vastness is great.

Image of an Abandoned reindeer herding corral.

Abandoned reindeer herding corral.

Once in Teller, we rolled through the small community of about 270 to get a sense of the town. The beach was filled with drying fish racks, most loaded with fresh salmon. Boats were parked, nets were drying. No adults were present. We saw a couple of children walking in the streets. One particular boy was walking in a way that attracted my attention. He had that gait about him; head held down, shoulders slumped, walking with no purpose as if he was beaten down. When we passed, he looked up and we saw his black eye. It reminded me of the challenges a lot of villages face in Alaska. It reminded me that sometimes Alaska is not just gorgeous scenery – she has significant problems. We wanted to be respectful of the community and minimize our presence – we headed out quickly.

Image of Teller surrounded by a spit

Teller from a distance. It sits on a spit.

Image of small boat on shore with four small fish hanging on a wooden post nearby

Small catch

Image of several salmon drying on a wooden post

Salmon drying

Image of the streets of Teller

Teller streets, Alaska

Image of a very simple, old looking home

Teller home

Image of a simple building with a sign in front reading, "Teller Trading Co"

Teller business

About 20 miles outside of Teller the Jeep got a flat.

Image of Michael changing the tire on the Jeep

A flat in nowhere

Michael said he heard the “Psst Psst Pssssst,” but told himself it was nothing. In addition, the road surface had just changed from gravel to wet clay. Surely, he said in his mind, that was the reason why the steering felt wishy washy. Then I commented, “It seems like the Jeep is squirrelly, what’s going on?” Too many things to ignore. Michael pulled over and checked the tires. Confirmed – we have a flat. Michael made quick work of changing out the tire and we were back on the road. The rental contract clearly states we are responsible for all flats. We were now operating with no safety net and we have two more roads to travel before the weekend is up. In addition, we are pretty sure the tire went flat because all the tires are suffering from dry rot. We wondered all the way back what our options were.

Image of a map of Alaska pinpointing Teller, AK

Where the hell is Teller, Alaska?

Image of a map showing the relationship between Nome and Teller: 70.1 miles and 2 hours and 50 mins of driving

Teller Highway as it relates to Nome, Alaska.

We rolled into town and stopped at the pizza place for dinner. We figured we would deal with the tire in the morning; it was after all “Happy 4th of July.”

Man wearing boots, shorts, and a camo jacket

Typical Nome attire.

Flat tire fiasco
No place like Nome
About Maya

My name is Maya, and I wander.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I never knew that mormons were allowed to use 4 wheelers.

  3. Apparently in Nome they are.

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