Moose Pass, Alaska

I can’t really explain why, but Moose Pass (population: around 200)–about a half hour north of Seward–was my favorite tiny town in Alaska. It appears out of nowhere, sandwiched between tree-lined strips of wild highway that make you feel as though you are driving deep into a forest, nestled along the southwest shoreline of Upper Trail Lake. The only signs of civilization, initially, are the ridiculously elongated white lines of type painted on the road that demand that you slow down as you drive through the town you don’t even see yet. You could–if you aren’t the one driving–close your eyes for, say, 90 seconds while coasting along this stretch of Highway-9 and completely miss Moose Pass altogether. One Alaskan guidebook I carried with me described Moose Pass in a dozen words: “The road reaches Moose Pass at about Mile 98 (motel, store, restaurant).” That’s it. Well, just so you know, Moose Pass also has a post office, a library and a church or two. (Sidenote: I don’t have many regrets from my trip to Alaska, but one is that I was driving the final leg to Seward so late in the day that the Estes Bros. grocery store/deli in Moose Pass was closed when I drove through. Estes Bros. slogan: “We have everything you need. If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”) I later learned that this town–which is on the historic Iditarod trail–was named Moose Pass, because, supposedly, one time a moose was in the road/trailway, blocking the passage of a mail-carrying dogsled team. This detail seems both made up and wholly plausible at the same time. Which, in Alaska, is how facts often seem. I can recall several times when I’d react to some explanation with a “this-can’t-possibly-be-true” impression followed immediately by a “yeah-I-can-see-that” sense of agreement. Anyway, if you ever get to Moose Pass, do stop. Or, at least, slow down.

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