The little Alaskan village of Adak, Alaska, in the furthest tip of the Aleutian Islands is mostly known for being the Westernmost city in the US, the Southernmost city in Alaska, and generally a remote town with a population of about 300. There was once an Air Force Base on the island, but ever since it left, the town's best claim to fame is that it's home to what is known as the world's smallest National Forest. Clocking in at a miniscule 33 trees big, the Adak National Forest is impressively tiny, but the story behind it is just as interesting as its existence.
Adak's Air Force Base played an important role in the Aleutian Island Campaign of World War II. Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. was in charge of the Alaskan Defence Command. Being stationed in the Aleutian Islands was, at times, pretty brutal. The area was remote, the weather was constantly grey, and many people forget that Alaska was actually invaded by the Japanese-- they seized the islands of Kiska and Attu, and attacked Dutch Harbor (in fact, there's still a submarine on Kiska leftover from the battle). In 1943, General Buckner had tons of the trees planted in an effort to "boost morale", thinking that a grove of Christmas trees on the otherwise scrubby island might bring some cheer to his men. The plan totally backfired-- because the only thing worse than no Christmas trees is watching the Christmas trees you planted slowly but surely die off. Allegedly, there was a point when only one tree was left standing.
Somehow, though, a few other pine trees managed to grow back and withstand the climate, bringing the number of trees into the low 30's-- althought the trees' growth is severly stunted by the brutal conditions. The group of pines can hardly be called a grove, let alone a full-blown forest. It became a sort of running joke amongst the citizens of Adak, and in 1962 or 1963, they put up a sign near the trees, stating "You are now entering and leaving Adak National Forest". Their affection for the forest goes beyond sarcastic signage, too. Apparently, every year at Christmas, the entire grove gets decorated for the holidays. What other National Forest can say that???
Here are some more exciting, one-of-a-kind things to see and do in Alaska!
Header via Flickr/Paxon Woelber