The Road to Classic Wizard
(Adak Island, Outer Aleutian Chain, Alaska, USA)

Is it still now, as it was years before, that upon arrival at Adak airport one must rely on the phone number of the mayor/liquor store owner/rental car specialist for one of the island's well-worn, yet somehow reliable mid-1980s four-wheel drive vehicles— a humble fleet of rusted machines left behind from the previous decades of military activity in the area.

In the far reaches of the desolate Aleutian chain, on the northern side of Adak Island, a scattering of buildings and human environments present themselves as half present, as marginal and disintegrating characters slowly sinking back into their natural surroundings. With the historic strategic military settlement recently abandoned, the remains of the once government property depict a form of living tableau, one where all citizens have quietly vanished without a trace. As a distant U.S. military outpost, the location was once bombed by the Japanese, with munitions still scattered amongst the empty tundra. Later—with its harsh and desolate character—this "Birthplace of the Winds" went on to hold legendary status amongst military-related inhabitants as one of the more peculiar settings of the surveillance-fueled Cold War.

It is just over ten years since the military left this multi-billion dollar investment to stand alone and battle the wind. Signs and structures are failing, as well as many walls and windows, and most non-cement buildings in general. All abandoned dwellings, which account for 90% of the island's structures, are gradually crumbling from view. And is the historic signage once welcoming visitors to the Adak National Forest (with its 33 total trees) ever going to be replaced? Even the graffiti here proves to be fading from view. And what will become of the airplane hangar guarding and sheltering multitudes of redundant household appliances; or the local general store, which still shows proof of its earlier life as a basketball court?

After setting out from the heart of this modern ghost town in progress, the main street thoroughfare leads northbound towards the shore. And at the end of the road, a succession of various roadways known as Hillside Boulevard scatter in the direction of the "7 Doors of Doom", an abandoned concrete bunker once home to active nuclear depth charge devices. From this point on (is it yet another?) Hillside Boulevard leads farther north towards the beloved national forest, here presenting itself with only a rusted and empty sign post. Directly adjoining the forest lies the pet cemetery, a ragged plot of land mainly honoring the former military service dogs of years past. Further on along the road, coastal bluffs now come into view. Here the eagles of Adak reside and take flight.

It is the halfway point now to the wizard. He's patient and waiting, just ahead after a few small lakes and streams, past languid seals and the clever rock ptarmigan. Abandoned by all, he is still said to be standing alone (but for how long can that last?) just a bit further on: past an unknown amount of unexploded ordnance and hand grenades, past a safety dog with goggles and past a playful yet melancholic reverberation of the trusted and diligent digital Super Mario.


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