Virtual Trail Journey – Elim

Elim, an Inupaig Eskimo village of 310 people is situated on the south shore of the Seward Peninsula or north shore of Norton Bay.  Elim (EE-lum) is 100 miles east of Nome as the crow flies.  Like all bush villages, Elim isn’t connected by road to the rest of Alaska.  The only way to travel into or out of the village in the winter is by plane, snowmachine or dog team.  In summer it’s by plane or boat.  Supplies for the Elim Native Store arrive by plane.  Elim is fortunate to have one of the best and most modern airstrips in the region.

There is a community water and sewer system in Elim.  Most homes have indoor plumbing and the convenience of washers, dryers and hot water heaters.  The Eskimo people of Elim live off the land.  They depend on fishing, crabbing, whaling and hunting seals, caribou, moose, reindeer and small game.  They also plant gardens and harvest wild greens, salmon berries, blueberries, blackberries and cranberries.  The folks who have cash jobs work at the school, the store, local offices or with the airlines.

Before taking the name of Elim, the Eskimo village was called Nuviakchak (Nu-ve-AK-chak).  These folks had a very well developed culture and were well adapted to the cool/cold climate and otherwise harsh environment.  Around 1900,  herders from Norway were brought to western Alaska to show the natives how to raise reindeer to create an additional source of food and materials for clothing.  Because of this project a very large population of reindeer existed in the area.  In 1911, the area became a federal reindeer reserve of 298,000 acres.  The first school to exist in Elim was built in 1914 by Rev. L.E. Ost.  He founded a Covenant mission and school that became know as the Elim Mission Roadhouse.  Today there are about 90 students who attend Elim’s Aniguiin K-12 school  where 10 teachers are employed.

If you lived in Elim you’d enjoy about 150 days of sunshine each year along with 120 days of precipitation.  Annual precipitation is around 19 inches which includes 80 inches of snow.    The average July high is 61 degrees and the average January low is minus 5 degrees.  Summers are cool and moist while the winters are cold and dry.

The trail from Koyuk to Elim follows the main snowmachine trail.  The trail switches between the ice of Norton Bay and Seward Penninsula land for the 48 mile run.  a few miles short of Elim, mushers will pass by a settlement of old cabins.  This is old Elim and now serves as a fishing camp.  Some thirty years ago, Elim was rebuilt on higher ground.  Mushers will also pass an abandoned airport.  Between 1940 and 1970, this was a refueling stop for Nome plane traffic.  Upon reaching the checkpoint located in the Elim fire station, mushers will see a familiar face.  Jasper Bond has moved from Rohn checkpoint to Elim.

Well there you have it – a summary of Don Bower’s Trail Notes for the run between Koyuk and Elim along with some information from Wikipedia and Sperlings Best Places about the village of Elim.  Thanks to my friend Robert Bundtzen for sharing some of his pictures from Iditarod 2007.  Next Handler is going to tell us about White Mountain and a fun story about something that happened to Jeff King a few years back as he left Elim.  Stay tuned and remember in everything do your best every day and always have a plan.

Born to Run,