The McCandless Mecca: A Pilgrimage to the Magic Bus of the Stampede Trail
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Moon Berlin Walks. Moon Travel Guides. The Rock On The Mountaintop. Grandfather Mountain. Randy Johnson. White Feather. This Land Is Our Land. Ken Ilgunas. How to write a great review. The review must be at least 50 characters long. The title should be at least 4 characters long. People see McCandless as someone who just went and 'did it'. She finds it ironic that what the "pilgrims" hanker after — McCandless's perceived idealised rejection of the modern world to forge his own path — has become a well-worn trail.
Why Do People Keep Trying to Visit the ‘Into the Wild’ Bus?
And unlike Thoreau, Saverin also points out, McCandless did not construct his own philosophy — the "insights" that readers find being channelled by Krakauer. One of the fiercest critics of the McCandless myth — and all that it represents — is Craig Medred, who writes for the online Alaska Dispatch, most recently in September in an article headlined The beatification of Chris McCandless. And Medred's conclusion takes a swipe at his disciples. Kris Fister, a spokeswoman for the Denali National Park nearby, whose rangers have been called in to help "pilgrims' who become trapped on the wrong side of the river, frames the same question regarding those who get into trouble in more moderate terms.
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People don't have enough food. The question I would ask is: you read the book or saw the film. What is your disconnect? There are places you can cross if you go downstream. But often these are people who do not feel comfortable navigating. Often people don't have the experience or the equipment. The summer before last there was one gentleman we had to help on two occasions.
For some, at least, the pilgrimage to the bus, far from providing an epiphany, has been the source of disillusionment. Among these is Chris Ingram, who wrote an essay on his own experience for the Christopher McCandless website. Arriving a few days after Ackerman's drowning, he had planned, he recounts, to hike the trail to the bus "to have my own survival experience in Wild Alaska and to pay my respects to a person I adored and admired".
Reaching the raging river where rangers were still finishing their investigation into Ackerman's death, Ingram decided to turn back, his view of Bus as the "mecca of McCandless followers" radically transformed. The wilderness is a poor place to put your worries, your concerns, your dreams, your hopes, thoughts, wishes and happinesses. The wild simply is just that, wild. When it comes to that last objective, not everyone is successful: In , year-old Claire Ackermann from Switzerland drowned while trying to cross the Teklanika with French hiker Etienne Gros en route to the bus, and people have to be rescued from the trail every year.
Because hiking the Stampede Trail doesn't require a permit, there are no official statistics on how many are rescued annually. Lynn Macaloon, the acting public information officer for Denali National Park and Preserve, told VICE that she estimates "several" rescues on the trail take place each year, with park rangers, the local fire department, and Alaska state troopers among those tapped to pitch in. Late last month, hikers Michael Trigg and Theodore Aslund were the subjects of a rescue operation that involved more than 20 people and one helicopter, after making it to the bus and taking longer than expected on their return journey.
Halfacre, 30, is a professional hiking and packrafting guide; since , he's also run the Last Frontier Adventure Club LFAC , which he describes as "a way to get more information about different hikes online. His most recent trip took place in , when McCandless's sister Carine whose own memoir, The Wild Truth , was published that year joined him and 11 other hikers on the trek.
Over the phone, he speaks with the confidence of someone who, in his words, "can't remember a time [in my life] when I haven't been hiking. Halfacre claims that local journalists tend to cover Stampede Trail rescue operations by "writing negative and nasty things about anything that happens out there," and the ire felt on behalf of locals isn't entirely misplaced.
His solution, then, is education—specifically, the resources on LFAC's site that prepare potential Bus pilgrims for the challenges they're going to face. It's as much a how-to for experienced hikers as it is a warning for aspiring amateurs who aren't ready for such a taxing journey. And when it comes to hiking the Stampede Trail, learning when to give up is as crucial as knowing how to succeed.