Adak Island might be the perfect destination for those who really want to get away from anyone and everything.
Adak Island, Alaska, lays close to the end of the Aleutians, the long chain of islands that trails westward from the end of Alaska towards Russia. It’s about halfway between Seattle and Tokyo, and considerably farther north than either.
Originally home to the Aleut, the island was co-opted as a U.S. Army airbase in the 1940s to monitor against Axis movements towards Alaska. Through the 1980s, it remained a base for submarine surveillance in the Cold War, changing hands from the Army to the Navy. And then in 1997, the Navy left Adak Island behind.
Today, fewer than 100 people remain year-round. They live in the nearly abandoned military suburb that surrounds the navy base. Beer costs $50 a case, and a pizza is $30, but hey, no one here has had COVID-19.
There are a few businesses – a grocery store in an old daycare center, open a few hours a week; a liquor store in what used to be a gas station; a health clinic in the defunct school.
For tourists, it’s a bit of a trek. Adak Island is a four-hour flight from Anchorage, Alaska, and the plane only flies on Wednesday and Saturday, weather permitting. Historically, the major draw of the island has been caribou hunting. Caribou aren’t native, but were introduced by the state of Alaska in the 1950s specifically for hunting. The herd is now nearly 3,000 strong.
The hiking is also good – there are two volcanoes on the island, Adagdak and Mount Moffett. Most of the island is tundra, making for straightforward hiking and clean, stark views (Unless you’re here in July or August, which see fog five days out of every six). There is one forest that consists of a single cluster of hardscrabble trees. Some wit has put up a sign.
Many tourists now come for urban archaeology – there’s nothing to stop anyone from exploring the hundreds of abandoned buildings left behind by the Navy. One of those abandoned buildings is your hotel, after all.
Photo: The “Unofficial Adak National Forest.” Credit: Shutterstock