Couple enjoys Alaska living

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Town Crier News Staff

Family and friends welcomed Scotty and Bridgett Watkins home last week. The young couple, both Manila High School and the University of Arkansas Monticello graduates, moved to Nome, Alaska, a year and a half ago. They tried to see as many people as they could in their short visit.

They left Nome for their 12 hour flight arriving in Jonesboro with a 50 degree difference in the temperature.

It was 25 degrees below zero when they left Alaska and it was 25 above when they arrived in Jonesboro.

When the Watkins decided to make Alaska their home, they were not sure where they would live but started looking and searching for a place they both liked.

Bridgett had lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, for 10 years during her growing up years and loved it. Scotty, an avid outdoorsman, had visited Alaska and knew he would like living there on a permanent basis.

The couple decided to make Nome their home. With a population of 2,500, there are no highways going in or out. It is about 539 air miles north of Anchorage on Seward Peninsula by the Bering Sea.

"We have about 300 miles of unpaved roads going in different directions," Scotty said. "One leads to a fishing camp and another to a hot springs. Our supplies are brought in by water during the summer months and flown in during the winter months."

"We love the simplicity of life in Nome," Bridgett said. "We have everything we need. We have two grocery stores, an indoor swimming pool, a Subway, a small movie theater with a new movie every week, local restaurants, and a bank. It is like going back 100 years."

They said it does get crowded in March when about 20,000 people are there to participate in the festivities of the Iditarod, a 1,049 mile race with the finish line in Nome.

The three words Scotty used to describe their new home are "history, culture, and nature."

"History, culture and nature are everywhere," Scotty said. "Gold mining brought a lot of people to Nome and there is still one active gold mind and another one being built.

Bridgett, a registered nurse, works at the Norton Sound Regional Hospital, a 19 bed facility serving 13 villages. On her days off she works as a flight nurse for Med-E-Vac. She said the hospitals in the area offer good benefits to nurses for working in a native area. She has received a lot of nursing experience and even had the opportunity to deliver a baby while working a flight.

Scotty works in the Wells Fargo Bank in Nome.

Neither minds the cold temperatures. They said they walked everywhere the first six months they lived there. Their pick-up and camping trailer was left in Fairbanks because there was no way to get it to Nome. They have acquired a 4-wheeler, a truck and a snow machine to get them around.

They said the cost of living is high with gasoline $5 a gallon; milk $8.50 a gallon and eggs $5 a dozen.

"We did get cell phone service in Nome last year," Bridgett said. "That helps us keep in touch with our family."

Even their dog, Remington, a black Labrador retriever, loves his new home even though he did get frost bitten his first winter in Alaska but has not had any more problems. Remington doesn't seem to mind flying and seemed to enjoy his visit home, too.

Scotty enjoys hunting and fishing and has hunted moose, bear, wolves, and other big and small game.

He made it to Manila in time to go duck hunting with his friends last week.

"Every one was freezing but it felt like spring time to me because it was about 40 degrees warmer than when we left home," Scotty said.

Bridgett enjoys dog sledding. Her father and step-mother race, have a kennel and train dogs. Bridgett said it is only a two hour plane ride to their place at Twin Rivers and she tries to visit once a month or so.

The couple said they do miss their family but love their new home and invite friends and family to visit them.

They plan on staying in Nome for a while and eventually building a home near Fairbanks.

Scotty is the son of Del Watkins of Kentucky and Pam and Joe Chipman of Manila. Bridgett is the daughter of Cindy and Richard Holiman of Jonesboro and Allen and Ally Moore of Twin Rivers, Alaska.

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