Our new friends Pat and Sue (who took us fishing in the last post) very kindly lent us bicycles for the remainder of our stay in Nome, so we put them to good use exploring the beautiful mountainous tundra of the Seward Peninsula.
The peninsula is the American shore of the Bering Strait (across the strait is Siberia) and it’s quite wild, filled with migratory and arctic birds as well as musk-oxen, moose, brown (grizzly) bears, and caribou. Unfortunately we never spotted the latter three, but we saw many birds and musk-oxen!On our first day with the bikes (July 13), Pat put them in the back of his truck and we all drove out a dirt road, where we were very excited to see a herd of musk-oxen! We were bound to an old cabin that his grandfather had built when Nome was in its infancy as a gold rush boom-town and which Pat is restoring, a huge project! When he settled down to work on the new foundation he’s building, Seth and I set off on the bikes on a round-about route back to Nome.
We didn’t see the musk-oxen again – only a ground squirrel – but then we reached the ponds made long ago by dredgers sifting the soil for gold, and there were all the birds! Arctic terns, red-throated loons, a Northern shoveler, and nesting gulls. (Click on any of the images for a slideshow!)
The next day was chore day – laundry, etc. – but the 15th dawned sunny so we pedaled out of town to find musk-oxen. Sure enough, a small herd was grazing on some bright green marshy grass. We sat very quietly and observed them for a long time, taking photos with our zoom lens.
We took another round-about route back to Nome, this time stopping at the Nome River and along the beaches where people still pan for gold and where we could watch the pontoon boat dredgers at work.
On our last day with the bikes, we cycled about 12 miles out towards the Bering Strait, climbing up into the mountains. We found a tarn where a brood of mergansers had just hatched and was swimming around in circles next to their mother – magical!
Further on, we made a short hike up one of the hills for lunch, spotting a golden plover and taking in the sweeping panoramic views over Norton Sound (the arm of the Bering Sea where Nome is). It was a glorious clear day, with temperatures in the mid-60s F, just perfect! It was so exciting to look back over the Bering Sea and think how we’d traversed its whole length, from Dutch Harbor to Nome!
And on our way back, just to round out the day, we spotted a ptarmigan and another big herd of musk-oxen!