Homemade in Ruby, Alaska

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(Nora Kangas, 92, watches her great grandson Rohn in Ruby, Alaska)

The arctic air has an influence on Ruby on the Yukon River. At least my pilot thinks so.

And I tend to believe him.

We’ve been here a day and a half, and we haven’t had those 10-times daily snow showers we had in McGrath.

“Ruby is on the Yukon, and it’s way more susceptible to those arctic weather patterns,” he said. (our pilot)

We’ve had two days of high-pressure golden Ukrainian flag-type days up here on the Yukon River. Never mind that some man built the town on a wind-buffeted hillside in the middle of nowhere.

Ruby is a gem of a place. Cold, quiet and about as full of hospitality as you’re likely to find anywhere on the Yukon.

Rachel Wiehl runs a bed & breakfast, The Wild Iris B&B, that is a favorite among Iron Dog racers and Iditarod watchers alike.

It’s not just the view, it’s the attention to detail.

It’s probably the food more than anything.

We arrived cold and wet from Cripple to a Thanksgiving feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls and gravy.

Rachel doted on us and offered her truck and her snow machine for the 1-mile trek to the Iditarod checkpoint.

It’s the stories too.

Rachel is full of them, which you might expect from such a vivacious woman running a business in rural Alaska.

The tells a story about her kids getting excited about seeing “real” indians at a powwow in the Lower 48.

“I told them you’re real indian, you’re Athabascan,” Rachel said. “But they were like no, these are ‘real, real’ indians mom.’

She tells stories about Iron Dog that might make a racer blush.

Hospitality is something that has gone by the wayside, especially in the big cities. It’s hard to find the kind of personal care that makes you feel like family. It’s all clinical now, with hospitality in little bottles of shampoo and conditioner and skin-drying hard soap that is unbelievably difficult to unwrap. 

Her grandmother welcomes visitors with a big grin and a dozen questions.

“Grandma, they’re busy,” Rachel says several times before giving up and letting Nora Kangas, 92, fire away with her combination of genuine curiosity and historical analysis.

After two days, this is home.

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