The dirt and gravel Elliot Highway sported deep ruts as my wife Gosia and I motored 158 miles from Fairbanks to explore the remote Alaska village of Manley Hot Springs. However, spectacular views of the tundra more than made up for the bumps and jolts.

When Gosia paused to photograph the landscape, a friendly Alaskan state trooper stopped to make sure we hadn’t broken down in the middle of nowhere.

At last, we passed over an old bridge and slough to enter the village that serves as a permanent home to 160 people. Gosia and I fell in love with Manley Hot Springs at first sight.

We checked out the village’s few sparse streets and found an abandoned sheet-metal trading post, a tiny airstrip with three parked private planes, a half-pint Catholic church and a smattering of houses and tin-roofed shotgun cabins. We passed a small cabin that serves as a bath house with a hot tub filled with well water.

We introduced ourselves to Gary Tomlin, who oversees a charming old roadhouse now closed to undergo remodeling.

“What do you like about living in Manley Hot Springs?” I asked.

“I like it because it has so rich a history,” Tomlin said, tipping back his “gimmee” cap. “Living in a town at the end of the road is just fine for me. People look out for each other.”

Gosia and I met three local women armed with a stack of old newspapers. The first was Pam Redington, who with her late husband Joee once ran sprint-racing Iditarod kennels.  She introduced me to Beatrice “Bea” Schafer, a retired teacher, and Damaris (Dee) Mortvedt, wife of Arctic bush pilot Art Mortvedt.

The three ladies kindly shared a history of the former mining boomtown. A highlight for the town is its Fourth of July parade and fish derby attended by colorful local personalities. The local Native Alaskans throw occasional potlaches where all are invited. We learn that Manley reposes on the traditional lands of the Tlingits and Haidas.

The heyday of Manley Hot Springs was when it was known as Baker’s Hot Springs some 125 years ago. A mining entrepreneur who called himself Frank G. Manley gave the resort a name change.

Manley’s real name was Hilliard Bascom Knowles, according to a yellowed news clipping. He had appropriated the name of a dead man after abandoning his family in Texas.

Manley built a beautiful resort to serve locals and tourists, but his big dream winked out in 1913 when a fire destroyed all. Today, the town’s biggest challenge is flooding when the Tanana River overflows its banks.

What’s the town’s future? The ladies hope that repairs on the Manley Roadhouse will soon give the town again a watering hole and meeting place. They stressed that a fancy Hot Springs Resort now under construction will boost tourism. Manley does have highway department facilities, a clinic with two paramedics, a tribal council and one farming operation.

We asked about local celebrities. The ladies told us the late mushing legend Susan Bucher used to claim her mail at the town’s tiny grocery. Today, champion Iditarod musher Brent Sass leaves his homestead kennels on Joe Bush Creek to replenish his grub cache.

The trio noted that the town’s small population of children isn’t enough to support the shuttered former school. Kids either get home-schooled or taken to distant Minto for classes. Some in town consider offering free housing to families willing to relocate.

Gosia and I recommend Manley Hot Springs for a visit to all in Randolph County who can appreciate an oasis in the lonely Interior. We filled our Jeep’s tank at a quaint antique gas pump for $5 per gallon before heading home. We caution readers to rent vehicles from outfits in Fairbanks that allow driving on gravel roads.

Y’all might see us there. We plan to go back again and again.