On a calm, early-autumn day, a drive east from Nome provides a glimpse of local culture, a lesson in northwest Alaska history and spectacular, golden views.

The Nome-Council Road begins on Front Street, the famous home of the Iditarod’s finish line, but gives way to a rural expanse in just miles as a traveler heads east. Clusters of weather-worn cabins and driftwood fish drying racks dot the coastline, the occasional gold suction dredge parked among them. At Cape Nome, the road climbs just high enough for a long view of the rugged and foamy waves as they crash in the shallows. The Safety Roadhouse, if you happen to catch it open for business (which I did not), is the last stop before the highway bridge crosses the mouth of Safety Sound. Those relatively protected waters attract area boaters. Safety sound also draws migratory birds, and avid bird spotters.

Solomon, about 34 miles east of Nome, is fun place to stop and imagine what used to be. The site, which had long been a home to Inupiaq people, became a center for the area’s gold mining operations around the turn of the last century. Rusty locomotives, which interpretive signage explains had once been in service in New York City, remain on the grassy flats from their days transporting miners in the region. The Solomon townsite is mostly gone, but not entirely lifeless. The 115-year-old Solomon Roadhouse stands in ruins, but across the street an old schoolhouse has been restored and operates as a bed and breakfast.

As its name suggests, the Nome-Council Road ends at Council, 72 miles from Nome. I look forward to a visit when I have time to venture that far. It might not be passable for much longer this year. The road isn’t maintained for its whole length during winter. Though the gusty weather was warm in early September, the crashing waves and changing colors of the landscape were a reminder that winter isn’t far off.

The view toward Safety from Cape Nome overlooks the choppy Norton Sound shoreline. (Marc Lester / ADN)
A vehicle passes the Solomon Roadhouse ruins on September 1, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN)
A fire burns in the stove, but the Safety Roadhouse stood closed on a Sunday afternoon. (Marc Lester / ADN)
An American flag waves in the breeze on the porch of the Safety Roadhouse. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Clouds drift in the sky over Safety Sound. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Autumn colors show on the marshy grasses near Solomon. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Waves crash on the beach near Safety. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Driftwood collects in Solomon. (Marc Lester / ADN)
A worn putting green and games outside the Safety Roadhouse on September 1, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Dollar bills hang in the window of the Safety Roadhouse. (Marc Lester / ADN)
A cabin along Nome-Council Road is decorated with a Santa figure. (Marc Lester / ADN)
A rainbow is visible in the distance from a burial ground in Solomon. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Cabins line the shore in a view from Cape Nome. (Marc Lester / ADN)
The ruins of the Solomon Roadhouse still stand in Solomon. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Swans take flight from the wetlands near Solomon. (Marc Lester / ADN)
A weather-worn cabin stands along Safety Sound. (Marc Lester / ADN)
A suction dredge is parked on the beach near Nome. (Marc Lester / ADN)
A cabin near Safety Sound stands out in a cloudy view of the area on September 1, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN)