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'Into the Wild' fan dies trying to reach McCandless' bus

August 17, 2010 |  4:05 pm

Intothewild_cover Jon Krakauer's 1996 book "Into the Wild" told the story of Christopher McCandless, an idealistic young man driven to leave his comfortable bourgeois life behind; traveling through increasingly unpopulated areas, he sought a kind of truth, a closeness to nature. Eventually, he wound up in Alaska, where he camped out, deep in the woods, in an abandoned Fairbanks city bus. Trapped by a swollen river too turbulent for him to cross, McCandless eventually died in the bus, probably of starvation.

On Saturday, Claire Jane Ackermann, a 29-year-old from Switzerland, died trying to reach the bus while crossing that same river, Alaska State Troopers report. The AP reports:

Troopers say 29-year-old Claire Jane Ackermann attempted to cross the Teklanika River with a 27-year-old man from France on Saturday when they lost their footing and were pulled under by the current, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The man survived.

The old Fairbanks city bus was where 24-year-old Chris McCandless camped out and starved to death in 1992. It has become a destination for adventurers.

McCandless' story was made into the 2007 film "Into the Wild" starring Emile Hirsch, directed by Sean Penn. The film, which racked up a stack of nominations and awards, helped popularize McCandless' story.

Krakauer's book opens with the story of Christopher -- who was calling himself Alex -- getting a ride out to the Alaska backcountry. "Alex pulled out his crude map and pointed to a dashed red line that intersected the road near the coal-mining town of Healy. It represented a route called the Stampede Trail. Seldom traveled, it isn't even marked on most road maps of Alaska. On Alex's map, nevertheless, the broken line meandered west from the Parks Highway for 40 miles or so before petering out in the middle of a trackless wilderness north of Mt. McKinley." Krakauer probably never imagined that other unfortunate travelers might use this description as a map of their own.

-- Carolyn Kellogg


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