Hiker dies trekking to ‘Into the Wild’ bus

Last weekend, 29-year old Swiss hiker Claire Jane Ackermann died while crossing the Teklanika River along the Stampede Trail in Alaska. She was attempting to cross the stream, along with another hiker from France, in the hopes of reaching the Fairbanks bus made famous in the book and movie Into the Wild, a popular destination for trekkers in the region.

Ackermann and her male companion tied themselves to a guide rope that had been strung across the river earlier in the summer. But the water was swollen, and moving fast, with the late summer melt off, and when they both lost their footing, the powerful current forced them under. The unidentified man was able to cut his rope and drag himself to shore, where he dropped his backpack and turned back for Ackermann, who was already submerged. He returned to retrieve her, but after cutting her safety rope, the pair were washed downstream for half a mile. By the time they reached the safety of the shore, the Swiss woman was unresponsive, and all attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful.

The bus that the two hikers were trying to reach is the same spot where Chris McCandless starved to death back in 1992. The 24-year old vagabond had traveled across the U.S., Canada, and parts of Mexico before hiking into the Alaskan backcountry, where he would eventually meet his fate while staying in Bus 142. The old vehicle was parked in the wilderness to serve as a shelter for backpackers, but Chris became trapped there when he was unable to cross the same river that claimed Ackermann’s life.

In 1996, bestselling author Jon Krakauer wrote the biography Into the Wild about McCandless, exploring the reasons why a young man from an upper class family would give up his comfortable life in order to wander across North America. Eventually that wanderlust would lead him into the Alaskan wilderness where he eventually perished. That book helped turned McCandless into a folk hero for many, sparking a trend of other hikers going in search of the infamous bus, and in 2007, the book was turned into a film, which brought even more attention to McCandless’ story, and spurred a surge in people looking to follow in his footsteps.

For many of the local residents, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before someone died making the trek to the bus. Since the release of the movie, traffic along the Stampede Trail has increased sharply, with most going in search of McCandless’ final resting place. The young traveler has been soundly criticized in some circles for going into the backcountry unprepared, and it seems that many of those that follow him are equally lacking in skills and gear. Perhaps this unfortunate story will get future hikers to respect the challenges of the trail a bit more fully, and approach the region with more caution.

Chicago backpacker gets lost (again) in Alaska

When Into the Wild, the story of Christopher McCandless’ epic adventure in the Alaskan wilderness, was published, the idea of setting off into the wild with nothing but a few pounds of rice and your wits to survive seemed terribly romantic….well, except that McCandless died because he was unprepared for the harsh conditions. Despite (or I guess, because of) that minor point, hundreds of people have followed suit to gawk at the ruins of the bus that McCandless lived, and died, in.

Over the years, several people who’ve set out for the bus have had to be rescued, costing the state around $2000 each. Understandably, many locals have have come to dislike the tourists who arrive, unprepared and ill-equipped, and put themselves in unnecessary danger. So they probably hate Don Carroll.

The Chicago-area 19-year old went looking for the bus with a friend, found it, and then got lost in the woods for three days with no food or water. The two ate berries and drank river water before being rescued by helicopter on Monday. But this isn’t Carroll’s first time being lost in the Alaskan wilderness. Back in June, Carroll, a seasonal resort employee, was hiking alone in Denali National Park and lost his way. Wearing just jeans and a hoodie, he suffered hypothermia, but managed to lead rangers to his location through text messages. He was rescued by helicopter then as well.

Caroll will head back to civilization in mid-September. Until then, hopefully he’ll stay out of the woods. It doesn’t sound like he is welcome there anyway. “If police see me in the woods, they’re going to arrest me,” he said in a phone interview. “The chief ranger said he’s not going to come looking for me anymore.”

[via Daily Herald]

Two new year’s travel resolutions everyone should make

Here are two travel resolutions that have to do with letting people in on your plans, at least the basic idea of what you are up to. They may seem like they’ll cramp your free spirit, hit-the-road on a whim style if you’re that kind of person, but these are the details that could save people at home some headache and give you a heads up if there has been a problem while you are away.

When I watched Chris McCandless burn all of his identificiation and not let people know where he was heading when he went off on his going it alone adventure as depicted in the movie Into the Wild, I thought, “Ya know, not the best plan.” I understood the sentiment, but still, not the best plan. Therefore, here are my two don’t be like Chris McCandless resolutions.

Resolution 1: When you are traveling, let people know you are going and for about how long.

A few years back I found out from a relative that my dad was trotting off to Europe or some such place and he had yet to mention it to me. He’s a big boy and can travel wherever and whenever he wants for sure, but I called him up to find out how I might be able to reach him in case there was an emergency. Ever since that day when I reminded him that we need to know when he’s traveling, he’s been good about filling me in. At least I know when he’s leaving and coming back and, if he has it, one contact number.

Also, if I had called him while he was away and he never answered, I’d get worried. We don’t live near each other. I’d rather know he’s out of town then wrack my brain figuring out how to get in touch with him or if something bad has happened when actually he’s drinking a glass of red wine in the south of France.

Likewise, most of the time when we travel, we let our families know where we’re going and when we will be back and our contact information in case they have to contact us.

Although I’ve never had to contact anyone because of an emergency, years ago a friend of mine had to contact me because my apartment was broken into. This caused me to cut my trip short by a couple of days since I wasn’t particularly comfortable letting him handle a broken window and my missing belongings from a couple thousand miles away.

Resolution #2. Leave important documents with someone and instructions just in case there is a medical emergency

My mom is big on telling me just where her documents are whenever she goes anywhere. Everything is written down in an elaborate list even. She’s done this for years despite my eye rolling. However, it’s not a bad idea. She’s also one to carry around a list of the medications she takes in case she has to go to the hospital, which could be resolution #3. She did have an emergency this past February and the list saved the ER folks time and energy.

In Chris’s case, he gave up all life’s trimmings ahead of time, but for the rest of us with bank accounts and what not, instructions are in order.

Mush a dog team to Chris McCandless’s bus on the Stampede Trail

By now most of us are familiar with Chris McCandless and his Alaska tragedy, due to Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild,” and Sean Penn’s screen adaptation of the text. It’s not that uncommon for folks to come to Alaska in search of something whether it be nature, an authentic experience, adventure,or some solitude. For folks seeking all four, McCandless has become somewhat of a role model. Martha already wrote about the the bus where McCandless died as a potentially popular destination, and the debate between locals about whether or not to remove it. It seems “wayward travelers” have been living out their Alaskan fantasies and using the bus as a sort of pilgrimage.

But now you can visit the bus by dog team in the middle of winter. What’s more, you can learn to mush your own team there. Can you think of anything more “authentically” Alaskan?

Chris McCandless’ Bus an unlikely tourist attraction

Chris McCandless, the famous vagabond and subject of Sean Penn’s new film, Into the Wild, is perhaps best known for living out of an abandoned bus in the Alaskan Wilderness in the early 90s. He hiked to the middle of nowhere of his own accord, despite warnings from concerned locals, and lived off the land for a number of months. On September 6, 1992, two hikers found the bus, and on the outside, a note that read:

SOS. I need your help. I am injured, near death, and too weak to hike out of here. I am all alone, this is no joke. In the name of God, please remain to save me. I am out collecting berries close by and shall return this evening. Thank you, Chris McCandless. August?

Unfortunately they were too late. McCandless had been dead for two weeks.

The bus was strategically placed on the Stampede Trail to provide refuge for hunters better equipped for the Alaskan wilderness than McCandless. But since the publication of the book the movie was based on, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, wayward travellers, mostly young men, have been romanticizing McCandless’ story and re-enacting his journey. And now, amidst worries that even more fans will flock to the site, located about 25 miles from the town of Healy, locals are considering moving it.

Moving it is a problem of it’s own, since they can’t just drive it out of there. And it’s a shame to take away a refuge for legitimate hunters who are equipped for the wilderness, just because some lost souls have a morbid curiosity to see the deathbed of their ill-placed hero. Thoughts?