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More than a century has passed since a great stampede for gold put a speck of wilderness now called Nome on the Alaska map, but gold mining and noisy saloons are still mainstays here. This frontier community on the icy Bering Sea once boasted 20,000 people during the gold stampede in the 1890s, but now has only 3,500 year-round residents. At first glance the town may come off as a collection
of ramshackle houses and low-slung commercial buildings—like a vintage gold-mining camp; or, because of the spooky, abandoned, monolithic microwave towers from World War II that sit atop Anvil Mountain, the set for an Arctic horror movie—but only a couple of streets back you'll find tidy, modern homes and charming, hospitable shopkeepers. In fact, Nome is one of Alaska's greatest places, very much itself, the kind of town where the grocery store sells ATVs next to the meat counter.Just 165 miles from the coast of Siberia, Nome is considerably closer to Russia than to either Anchorage or Fairbanks. And though you'll find 300 miles of local road system well worth exploring, to get to Nome you must either fly or mush a team of sled dogs.
The northernmost community in the United States, Barrow sits 1,300 miles south of the North Pole. The village is 10 miles south of the Beaufort...