Adak postcard: America’s westernmost pet cemetery

A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Adak, WAY out in the Aleutians working on a wild and woolly travel story for 61º North (out in a few weeks, stay tuned), a local named Elaine Smiloff took photographer Nathaniel Wilder and I out to see the sights. One of the first stops is kind of a joke, known as “The Adak National Forest,” a little stand of trees planted years ago on the treeless island. Here I am. It’s windy! (Always. It’s Adak, “Birthplace of the Winds.”) IMG_0067 Here’s the view from inside:IMG_0092 IMG_0091Anyway, next door to the “forest,” there was a graveyard. I love walking through remote Alaska graveyards. In this one, I noticed, all the deceased had short lives. Like 20 years, max. “Oh, how sad,” I said. “Children.” Elaine and Nathaniel started cracking up. Read the names again, they suggested. Fritz? Skipper? Was that a tag from a dog collar nailed to a cross? Oh, ha, a pet cemetery. At the end of the Aleutian Chain. Of course. Adak used to be home to 6,000 people when there was an active military base there. It’s closed now (since the mid-1990s) and fewer than 100 people live on the island. All the people buried there were exhumed and their remains were sent elsewhere, Elaine said. But their pets’ bodies remain. Reading the tombstones is a kick. Here are a few: IMG_0072 IMG_0075 IMG_0090 IMG_0089 IMG_0086 IMG_0080 IMG_0082 IMG_0069 IMG_0079 IMG_0078 May they rest in peace. (The view from the pet cemetery was also pretty great.) IMG_0095