• Photo: Silivonochka | Dreamstime.com


For a break from the buzz of the George Parks Highway, take a detour in Nenana (rhymes with "banana"), a town of approximately 380 people, on the banks of the Tanana River and under the shadow of Toghotthele Hill or, in Athabascan, the "mountain that parallels the river." The downtown avenue seems stuck in time, a relic of the early Alaska Railroad construction heyday from 1915 to 1923.

Nenana has several claims to fame: home to the world's second-largest single-span bridge, 700 feet long; the site where President Warren Harding drove the golden spike into Alaska’s railroad to commemorate its completion (and possibly where he caught the case of pneumonia that contributed to his death a few weeks later); and the start of the 1925 serum run to Nome. It's also home to the Nenana Ice classic, where Alaskans annually bet on the date and time of the river's spring breakup. Ongoing since 1917, the jackpot sometimes climbs over $300,000.

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