Adak Island, located near the furthest tip of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, is one of the southernmost westernmost island of the United States. The high winds, persistently overcast skies, and cold temperatures mean that only the most cold-resistant grasses, mosses and low-lying flowering plants grow here, with the exception of a group of exactly 33 pine trees huddled together at the foot of a small hill. This grove of trees is claimed to be the smallest “National Forest” in the country.
The trees were planted during the Second World War by the US military. The exercise was meant to boost the sagging spirits of the soldiers stationed at this remote outpost, who suffered through the miserable weather of almost constant snow, sleet, rain, fog, and mud. Army General Buckner thought that planting some Christmas trees on the otherwise barren island might cheer up his troops. So he initiated a formal tree planting program from 1943 through 1945.
Unfortunately, the Aleutian climate was so harsh that the pines didn’t survive. At one point, there was only one tree left standing. Somehow, a few other pine trees managed to grow back and over the course of several years, formed a small grove of severely stunted trees. In the early 1960s, somebody jokingly put up a sign that read: “You are now entering and leaving Adak National Forest”.
Whether or not General Buckner’s troops were able to celebrate Christmas around their pine trees is not known, but the fact that the grove was originally planted for Christmas was not lost to the local Aleutians who never forget to decorate the whole “forest” every December. Of course, the federal government doesn’t recognize the grove as a National Forest.