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

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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R.I.P Claire and all your family think and will remember you for their entire life... Be with god for the eternity... God bless you !!!

They never DO learn.

At the age of 19, I traveled up to Alaska, driving all the way from Southern California. I decided to go climb the mountain above Denali Park Resort on my own. I made it to the top and was able to look along the mountain range extending to the west and down towards where Chris would have died three years before, though I didn't know of him at the time. It was perhaps one of the most beautiful and seminal moments of my life, but in hind sight. I now realize how foolish and ill prepared I was to go out on my own without so much as a map or anything else. At the time, however, it didn't matter to me, the mountain was there and so I simply went.

The year before I was up in the Sierras with my father and I recall him telling me about his trips into the Olympic peninsula of Washington and having crossed rivers that he probably shouldn't have only to learn the hard way upon his return just a few days later, that they can rise much higher to dangerous levels due to the snow melt. I at least that from my father. If there is anything that we should take away from the amazing and tragic story of Chris McCandless and now Claire Ackermann, it's that we should explore life, but that we should also exercise caution and try to be prepared and knowledgeable about where we are going before we get there.

I am truly sorry Ms Ackermann lost her life, no doubt, she felt drawn by the same sense of curiosity and awe that have let others like Chris, her and myself to such environs in order to make it feel more full.

If this teaches us anything, it's that these deaths were STUPID and SENSELESS. This is not about 'being close to nature' or 'exploring life'. There's a great big world out there and there is plenty to explore that can be discovered SAFELY using COMMON SENSE. I feel for the families of these ignorant, ill-informed children who think it's cool or fun to go exploring in dangerous places that those with more age, wisdom, and experience have not gone.

How tragic this is. How foolish and how stupid to even think of doing something so dangerous.

Not to demean the death of either of these two adventurers, but just reading the news today, floods in Pakistan, bombings in Afganistan, slaying on the Mexican border, etc... they certainly went out with style, grace and a lust for knowledge and beauty.

I read that book for a class. The reactions were divided among two main groups. One thought, "Chris was brave to follow his desires to the end." The other thought "Chris was selfish and stupid." I agree with the latter. I see no redeeming qualities in Chris's behavior. It's almost like he was in a fugue state.

Better a short life pursuing your dreams than decaying on the couch.

Bless you, Claire, for going for it!

I think it is mean to criticize someone's death in a comments section. What if her mom reads this?

Sad. Nature is to be wisely feared: that's all.

Neither of these deaths were stupid or pointless. Far more people have died driving to work in the morning, or home at night. Those deaths were infinitely more stupid and pointless. Unfortunately, for most people "doing something safely" usually means not doing anything at all. RIP Chris and Claire.

Exhibit 702,308 in the study, Stupidity breeds Stupidity.

I used to live on Stampede Road (the paved section before it becomes Stampede Trail). Visited the 'magic bus' many a time. Hundreds of videos on youtube of people hiking to it exist. It is an easy day's hike to get to it. with an ATV it is even easier obviously. I even saw a small dachshund hike to the bus. The only tricky things are the river and the possibility of angry moose or bears. These people who die hiking there are either extremely unlucky or terribly clumsy/ weak/ naive. The river can be crossed but require common sense.. find a wide point in the river, avoid areas with obstacles down stream, avoid river bends, use trekking poles or a stick, unbuckle your pack etc etc.. . with a partner it is easier because the stronger person can provide support. It is a shame this happened but one can drown anywhere , even in a puddle without some knowledge..

Time to pull the bus out of the wilderness and maybe that would keep people from coming there. I just re-read Brave New World by Huxley and people going to the bus remind of those in Huxley's novel who came to see the Savage near the end.

Also, if you liked Into the Wild, you might also like Solitude by Kull.

...his comfortable bourgeois life...

Know how I know you're an idiot.

The fact that you people don't even know Chris's story and are saying that he's stupid and naive is really a reflection of your own ignorance on the subject. Chris went to Alaska because it was the farthest geographically you could get from his home in Virginia. He thought that the further away from his parents he could get, the bond between them would also weaken. Chris probably knew that at some point on his journeys he would probably die, and he was content with that notion.

I abhor most of Sean Penn's personal views but dammit if he didn't direct an outstanding film.

I've probably seen it more than a half dozen times now.

Chris's story really speaks to many of us who occasionally become disillusioned by modern society... especially during our youth.

Most of us come through those all-important adventures in solitude unscathed, some don't.

To Charlie
You say "Far more people have died driving to work in the morning, or home at night. Those deaths were infinitely more stupid and pointless. "

I don't think McCandless's death was stupid or pointless. Just sad.

But I wonder, what exactly do you find so pointless about providing for your family, for your community, or for your country? These things may entail driving to work in the morning and home in the evening. And if one happens to tragically die in the process, why was that a pointless, stupid life?

Boths deaths were just stupid which was probably what both Chris and Claire were thinking at the end.

We're given a life on this earth, just one. We're given control of it, and bear the responsibility of how we use it. One wasted his life trying to leave society, he depended heavily and used the resources of the locals heavily.. Until he died pointlessly. The other, followed a phantom - a non-existent dream painted by a movie maker, who wanted to glorify stupidity. Both were a waste of life, but for entirely different reasons. One followed a lie, the other lived it. Please don't waste your life. Live it to BLESS others, not control them, not demean them, and not by being untruthful.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Why are fools like these two held up as heroes? Why do they deserve books and movies?

"Neither of these deaths were stupid or pointless. Far more people have died driving to work in the morning, or home at night. Those deaths were infinitely more stupid and pointless."

-- Driving to work while talking your cell phone or texting, getting in a wreck and killing someone else or yourself-stupid
-- Chris McCandless--opportunity at his feet handed by his family, flipped them off and disregarded the intelligence it took to get through school and embarked on infantile wilderness self-desctruction. His world view was jacked up..Alexander Supertramp? More like "Super-flop." He died alone of starvation because he didn't have a healthy respect for the wild and take measures to enhance his own safety.

It's the same 'sickness' that leads a man to think he can flop around on his belly among grizzly/brown bears believing that they had accepted him and he wouldn't be harmed. All it took was one. One bear not used to him. And for the man who once bragged, "I'd be honored to wind up as bear scat"? He wound up throwing pans at the beast trying to save his life. In the end, he didn't get his dream post-mortem. The bear was culled (as he was told would happen) likely before it could have a movement.

Cuts of the same cloth--the above.

Two the recent deaths? We don't know their planning, their care, nor their level of respect and regard for the wild so one can't criticize them except this....

Pick your heroes wisely.

The abandoned bus should be removed to prevent some stupid people from trying to do the same thing as Christopher McCandless and this most recent victim did. The Park Services should put a warning sign to ward off idiotic "adventurers".

"The absorbing passion of any highly sensitive person is to forget himself, whether by drinking or by agonizing love, by furious work or play, or by submerging himself in the creative arts. Sometimes, if his will is powerful, he can pretend to himself that he does not know what he knows, and can act a part as one of the rest. But the pretense cannot endure, and unless he can find another as highly strung as himself with whom to share the murderous pain of living, he will surely go insane."

Time to pull the bus out of the wilderness and maybe that would keep people from coming there. I just re-read Brave New World by Huxley and people going to the bus remind of those in Huxley's novel who came to see the Savage near the end.

People have different values in life.
Whom are you to say they are stupid, ignorant and wasting their lifes? You do not know them, you do not know their desires, you do not know why they went "into the wild". If McCandless, Ackermann and all the others who have been out there did it because they thought it would some how make them happy, you don't have to understand it, but at least you should respect how they choose to live their lifes. Not everybody finds happiness in a family, house and 9to4 job, some people wants to get out there, explore, but that does not make them stupid. We can't all be the same. Just respect their ways of living, and let them rest in peace.


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