The Magic Bus was a place I had dreamed of visiting since I first saw the movie and read the Jon Krakauer book, “Into The Wild”. I think of it as a pilgrimage made by those who have felt some kind of connection with Chris McCandless and his story. Most people don’t realize the bus lies on the well known “Stampede Trail”, not all that far from civilization and can be reached in a solid day of hiking.

The Stampede Trail is fifty miles of rough, overgrown mining road that was abandoned in 1963. No bridges were ever constructed over the several rivers it crosses so it is primarily used by backcountry travelers on foot, bicycle, snow machine and motorcycle. The now infamous Fairbanks City Transit bus #142 was left behind by the Yutan Construction Company during the road building to serve as a backcountry shelter for hunters, trappers and ranger patrols.

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Typical conditions on the Stampede Trail

I met two cool Austrian characters, Thomas and (roll the ‘R’) Roland on the Dalton Highway and it took all of 10 seconds to convince them to join me on a trip to ‘The Bus’. We were able to drive about 12.5 miles down Stampede Road before we had to leave the vehicles behind and continue on foot. The first hour and a half of hiking the next morning saw us travel on a really good quad trail, through some small swaps, through a couple of shin-deep river crossings and spat us out at the edge of the Teklinika River.

Ultimately, the ‘Tek’ was Chris’ downfall when he was unable to cross it and return to civilization, forcing him back to the bus. Although it was not the raging torrent Emile Hirsch faced in the movie, it was obvious we would be swept off our feet and downstream if we did not keep our heads about us.

We ummmed and arrred for quite a while and wandered upstream, where we had been told the river was wider and shallower. Once we got sick of our aimless wandering, Thomas picked a spot and after throwing in rocks and using sticks to measure the depth we all agreed it was our best chance. We tentatively forded one at a time, with our packs un-buckled so we could ditch them if we were to get swept in. It’s a shame you can’t see my face in any of the photos – I was more than a bit scared when it reached mid-thigh in depth and began to really push hard. Slow and steady won through and I was relieved to be on the other side. Roland came powering across like he was on a mission and in a voice that was too much Arnie to be true beamed “Bah, dat was easy”.

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Crossing the mighty Teklinika River

Thomas and Roland are fitness machines and once we were back on the trail I was quickly left in their dust, alone with my thoughts. Chris must have felt such a sense of isolation and awe to be all the way out here, alone, not knowing if there was anything or anyone ahead. At times I yelled into the alder and clapped my hands, trying to avoid startling any neighborhood bears. At times I sang aloud and at times I was silently reflecting – I was actually going to the bus, the bus that Chris had spent four months living in, was essentially trapped in and finally died in. Wow.

When bus 142 appeared on the side of the trail, seemingly out of thin air I was quite startled. I’d been hiking on my own for 10 miles but somehow wasn’t ready to be there yet. I paused on the edge of the clearing for a moment, then again in the doorway, trying to take everything in. Even though I’d never been there before, it was very familiar – from the description in the book, the movie and also from the pictures I’ve seen online.

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The front of The Magic Bus

I thought The Magic Bus would be a quiet, sad place to spend time – I was quite surprised to find the opposite was the case.

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The stove and bed of The Magic Bus

It’s customary for visitors to inscribe their name on the wall of the bus and write a message in the “Guest Book” – a book placed in the bus by Chris’ sister Carine. There were hundreds, maybe even thousands of exhilarating messages from people all over the world who had made the trek out to the bus. People wrote about how upon hearing Chris’ story they changed their lives so they could live their dreams, people wrote of hitching thousands of miles to be there, people wrote about how beautiful of a place Chris had found. Graffiti like ‘Solo trek to honor Chris’ and ‘Swept downstream by Tek, it was worth it’ made me grin from ear to ear – Chris has inspired thousands of people and and I was thrilled to be a part of that.

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Jon Krakauer's message in the book

My message in the Guest Book captures my feelings:

You have inspired more people than you will ever know, not least of all me.
Your passion, courage and determination gave me the strength to believe I really can make my dreams come true.
And here I am, in Alaska, having been to the Arctic Ocean, on my way to South America.
Thankyou Chris.

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Christopher McCandless Plaque

I spent many quiet hours in the bus, reading the walls and the many guest books.
Although I hunted high and low I could not find any writing from Chris himself – it seems they have all faded away over the years.

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A quote by Thoreau on The Magic Bus

It was truly and amazing experience and all three of us couldn’t stop grinning and talking of adventures to come the entire hike back.

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Roland Dan & Thomas at The Magic Bus

My hair is all wrong and my beard is not nearly long enough, but you get the idea:

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Dan at The Magic Bus

-Dan

If you’ve just stumbled onto my site, I encourage you to have a look around and read more about my ongoing adventure from Alaska to Argentina.

425 Responses to “The Magic Bus”
  1. [...] into the wild Trek to the Magic Bus The road chose me Living the dream in AK [Show as slideshow] [View with PicLens] [...]

  2. Quinton says:

    I have read so many opinions of Chris, and every one differs in some way. I think this shows how different all of us are and how we all have our own ideals and specific values in this world. Personally, I respect Chris immensely for what he did – He had lived in what he viewed as a poisoned society for so many years, and left fullspeed as soon as he could – i think he had been planning this for a long time, longer than some suspect. A reader of Thoreau, Tolstoy, London – he had his own philosophy of life that involved the wilderness in us all, the need for freedom from this controlling society and the spirit of adventure of someone still young enough to physically and mentally fulfill his dreams.
    When people talk of his seemingly naive ignorance of the danger and risk, i feel that they just cannot or do not want to understand him, and what was important to him. You cant put a price on freedom and the act of living, truly living – he realized this and acted upon it. No map? He wanted to explore, like explorers of old, who set forth in wooden ships to blindly sail to somewhere they had no knowledge of. His unpreparedness did not showcase his ignorance or stupidity; rather it proves his dedication to find out for himself who he was and what he was capable of, without the need of modern technology. There is an element of animalism in this – shown by Primo Levi in one of his short stories (someone to read for sure) “To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions. Facing the blind death stone alone, with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head” This was in the movie and the book, and it adds another angle to Chris’ personality.
    This is a brief opinion of mine of his opinion, and i feel that this represents my own philosophy. This is how everyone has a different view of Chris – our opinions of him all reflect our own ideas and thoughts, because through our thoughts is the only way we can feel we understand those of his. I am 17 years old, and the day after i graduate from highschool i am backpacking/hitchiking/train hopping wherever i feel at the time, at whatever speed i like. Money is irrevelant in the kind of adventure i seek. I am sick of this society, and i too am leaving it behind.

    • Dan says:

      Right on Quinton – thanks for that man I really appreciate your thoughts!

      • Dan says:

        Hi Dan.
        I have been seriously considering making this trip for some time but life constantly gets in the way. This is something I have felt I had to do for a long time now and the feeling is indescribable, although I am sure you know it. I was wondering if I could use you as a starting point in both planning my trip and also any additional advice you could give me.

        • Dan says:

          Hi Dan,

          Absolutely. Start out by gaining as much experience as you can in the backcountry – it’s very remote and help is very far away. Let me know what specific questions you have and I’ll do my best to help.

          Have fun!
          -Dan

  3. in a small town (AK) says:

    This fairly well sums up the actuality of the experience:
    •  •  •  •  •

    Alaskan Park Ranger Peter Christian wrote:

    “I am exposed continually to what I will call the ‘McCandless Phenomenon.’ People, nearly always
    young men, come to Alaska to challenge themselves against an unforgiving wilderness land-
    scape where convenience of access and possibility of rescue are practically nonexistent [...]
    When you consider McCandless from my perspective, you quickly see that what he did wasn’t
    even particularly daring, just stupid, tragic, and inconsiderate. First off, he spent very little time
    learning how to actually live in the wild. He arrived at the Stampede Trail without even a map of
    the area. If he [had] had a good map he could have walked out of his predicament [...]
    Essentially, Chris McCandless committed suicide…”

    • link to validate ranger’s comment:
    http://nmge.gmu.edu/textandcommunity/2006/Peter_Christian_Response.pdf

    {A good simple and practically free second-hand book in map & compass orienting
    and a few more thoughtful learning experiences elsewhere may have turned this
    sad fated story into a better coming-of-age-story; instead of a tragic misadventure.}

    Too bad he was truly uninformed and unprepared for the wildland survival experience
    that the great white north brings. Winter, harsh & subzero, more than 6 months long.

    I’ve lived and worked in many remote and inspiring regions of Alaska; but was never
    here for the money. If I’d have failed as miserably and died in an old bus, I’d be eternally
    ashamed of the wasted education funds mu family had wasted on my behalf; had I been
    this character. And I have met thousands of them. Some end up living in Anchorage.

    And I am a real person, living without running water and sometimes no electricity; no
    cell phone, and occasional access to a computer when visiting Little America, urban AK.

    Think seriously before going on an emotional-based trip. You may as well stay at home
    and watch the Nat’l Geo channel. Or, gear up your mind and learn tons of facts about life.

    Sincerely,
    in a small town (AK)

    • Dan says:

      Hey In a Small Town,
      I totally understand your point of view, and can see why you believe Chris essentially committed suicide.
      When guys climb Everest without oxygen they are intentionally not taking something that would make their trip much easier and safer because they are looking for more of a challenge than going with oxygen provides. Sometimes those guys get seriously injured or die, but I don’t view that as suicide and I don’t think what Chris did was either.

      • jcbit says:

        I would love to hear from you’re perspective why you think suicide isn’t what Chris did in the least, and also would love nothing more than for you to help me wrap my mind around how a magical man in your situation can actually sit there, stomach the rage that I know you must have felt upon reading numbnuts’ comment up there, and actually utter the word ‘respect’ anywhere in the vicinity of what he had to say. I mean the collectedness one must have to possess to manage something with such gravity positively blows my mind— as I can relate only to Chris in ways of reason and in a similar quest for profound beauty that I have yet to find in this world I choose to surround myself with— when you’ve lived it in his memory and profound realism just seeps from every picture and blog on your page . I cannot even harness the willpower to address this clown in any way, because it physically hurts me PHYSICALLY HURTS ME to imagine how miserable this guy’s life must be to actually possess the fkn (pardon my French) audacity to sit there, allegedly living the same lifestyle as Chris did originally, and blab so much hypocritical garbage in that sense that I could actually puke everywhere upon reading it if I had anything in my stomach right now.
        I FEEL that if you continued to fail miserably at life and died and that old bus, you SHOULD be eternally ashamed of the wasted bucks your family put into your sorry sense of intellect because based on what I’m reading all it’s done is give you an inability to ration with anything sensical and the compulsive need to make no sense what-so-ever. The whole point is that he knew it’s what he wanted to do with his life, he fully acknowledged and accepted the risks that WERE to come with it, and he died trying to LIVE— which I’m sure is more than you could say for your sorry excuse of a life being a “real person, living without running water and sometimes no electricity; no cell phone, and occasional access to a computer when visiting” when on the real, 1, you don’t even deserve water so good choices, 2, you are probably a hideous human and that’s why you live on the outskirts of this world, unlike Chris who just couldn’t handle breathing in people’s like yours stupidity any longer and you SHOULD remain in the darkness, and 3, you just seem like a fantastic individual so I have no idea why you wouldn’t want a phone when so many people probably want to be your friend. And you really must be living large when you take it upon yourself to abuse thesse rare computer visits pissing people off. Yes, I accept that I am doing exactly that by writing this reply, but I don’t claim to be living any sense of a fulfilled life nor am I okay with that. But reading your simply idiotic travesty of a perception pushes me so close to the edge I’d be better off dropping out of HIGH SCHOOL tomorrow and pulling a Chris McCandless just so I wouldn’t have to keep my eyes open in society every day knowing that I’m walking around choosing to tolerate a place where NINCUMPOOOOPS are even given free speech in the first place. Ill admit straight up theres ‘tons of facts about life’ I don’t know and don’t care to know to be quite frank but ill be able to go to bed later on tonight after my blood pressure lowers knowing that I know a hell of a lot more about living than a GENTLEMAN and SCHOLAR such as your apparent self.
        And maybe I WILL watch the National Geographic channel cause that shit is just plain AWESOME.

        Good riddance,
        A very angry and opinionated soul

        • Lisa says:

          Hi Very Angry and Opinionated Soul,
          I understand why you feel about Chris the way you do. I, too, am awed by his bravery and ambition and intelligence and magic. He WAS magic and anyone who has the balls to do what he did is…well, there’s not a good enough word for it. But I also understand the opposite side…why would someone go into the wild so ill prepared? I don’t think Chris wanted to die. And I think the park ranger who commented above you probably sees a lot of people doing a lot of stupid crap. If I was Chris, I probably would have tried to figure out a way to cross the river or…who knows???? But the only person who knew what really happened and knew what was going on inside his head is Chris and he’s gone.

          He was happy and he had a good life…that’s good enough for me.

          • Dan says:

            Nice thoughts Lisa, thanks for sharing.
            With regard to crossing the river.. when I crossed in early July the water was high enough to be scary.. I certainly didn’t want to be there alone.
            If it had been much higher, we would not have made it across, so I can understand Chris getting stranded on the “wrong” side.
            -Dan

            • Holly says:

              In part, I wish I hadn’t found this site. My 27 year old son is on the Stampede trail as of yesterday, alone, and wanting to get to the bus. He, fortunately, has maps, compass, GPS, but you never know what the river will be like this time of year, according to his and my research. To him, it’s an adventure with a plan to be safely back to civilization in a couple of weeks. I understand the connection, emotions, and intrigue of Chris’ story and death. I have read the book, seen the movie, and hoped over the years that my son would lose his interest in experiencing the hike to the bus and whatever connectedness he might find there. With any luck and his perseverance, he will arrive back to cell coverage later this month and I’ll hear his happy voice on the other end. It seems as though many of you who have written have chosen to do the trek with a companion-likely a wise choice. If you any of you are now or will be a parent in the future, you’ll understand what the MacCandless family must have felt.

              To my son and those who travel the trail, “be smart, safe, and respectful of nature and its hazards”.

              • Dan says:

                I wish your son all the best. I hope his experience is what he is searching for.
                I crossed the river in early July (right around the 4th) and it was OK. I’m sure he will make the right decision when the time comes.
                Good luck. Enjoy.
                -Dan

  4. Eric says:

    Hey you had lots of great information, just a question though. i’m going out to the bus in mid july and i’m plannig the trip. how long on foot do you think it would take to get to the bus, we are fairly swift hikers, especially with such an amazing goal on our mind. total hour would be great if you have a guess.

    • Dan says:

      Hey Eric, We drove a long way up stampede road in our 4x4s and hiked in a single day. It was around 16miles of easyish hiking, only crossing the Tek slowed us down.
      If you don’t have a vehicle to drive in very far, most people do the hike in two days.
      Good luck & I’d love to hear how your trip turns out.
      -Dan

  5. Martin says:

    Hi,
    My name is Martin and I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina (not a Wild-Landscape in particular!).

    I can’t offer you a wild-experience in Buenos Aires, but I can offer you a sightseeing tour through the city and a beer if you like!

    Mail me if you decide to come to the South (i´ll be in the south-east asia from june to sept so if you happen to come here at that time I’m sorry! jeje).

    So.. cheers! Hope you have a great trip!
    Fellow traveller…

    P.s.: As you can see my english is not that good !

    • Dan says:

      Hey Martin,
      Thank you for the fantastic offer. I don’t know if I’ll go to BA yet, but if I do I’ll send you an email for sure
      You’re English is much better than my Spanish :)

  6. Thanks for this great blog.

  7. Natalie says:

    Thank you for posting this. I want to visit the bus since Chris is a huge hero of mine and I wanna know how I can plan this. I wanna go in a year or so during mid-August and I will be flying in from Florida, so I just wonder where the Stampede Trail is in distance from the nearest main airport and if crossing the Teklinika River can be accomplished at that time of year.

    Thank you so much,
    -Natalie

    • Dan says:

      Hey Natalie,
      Read through all the comments here, I’ve given that information many, many times.
      I also want to stress you need to be very experiences in back country wilderness travel, this is not a trip for first-timers.
      -Dan

  8. Aleksi says:

    Me grazy finnish guy have travelled unplanned and also moneyless,been in deadly dangers that I could have avoided easily.It was my youth,I survived..though sometimes I think I should have taken it deeper,and longer,I might think to be a looser because not suffered more.Im proud of my travelling years.I learned and experienced greatly.Diaries and drawings and travelling principally alone are great things..and books,hammock,nature,other travellers,one way tickets.No clock nor schedule.Noone here understood my experiences,I didnt even try to explain,Im not explainer. I dont have a career,I have love ones,no worries.
    I learned:one is not dying for hunger when people around,I call it God.I was about to go into the wild from Vancouver B.C,but didnt,I thought its too big for me.I have been very ill(only diarrhoa),and died soon if water,salt and bananas been further than 30 meters.
    If McCandless would survived I would blame myself of being a chicken.He died, I cried.
    By his age I had been allready in..doesnt matter,main thing is going,not destination.
    I read 30 min of how to sleep in the snow before I went to do so for days,and Im not specially intelligent.
    Compass,maps,medicine etc not necessary,NOT BEFORE EMERGENCY.

    -Finn

  9. also says:

    hello Dan, its nice theres a blog that can inspire ppl to travel, i myself wanna feel that rush of getting up one morning and saying stuff it and choose a road to life….i’m 28 male and traveling has always been a part of my life…yeah i travel, but its nothing like ur traveling…thats what i wanna experience, the air from an other country, the sunrise and sunset on the beach in mancora, peru, watch a soccer game in rio de janeiro (luv soccer)….not caring about time or tomorrow….well my biggest problem is i dont have any one to join me. so my questions are as fallow:

    1. how much money do you need?
    2. do you travel with a partner or if alone how do you do that?
    3. how do you choose you’re destinations?
    4. how do you do with money…i mean do you carry all ur money with you or travel checks
    5. wat equipment do you need for traveling if u don’t have a car and have to do it on foot…

    well i do appreciate ur time and hope you can help the future traveler….

    you’re friend,
    aldo

    • Dan says:

      Hey Aldo,
      It really is an amazing feeling to really get out there and go for it. I don’t even have a watch anymore so the time and date are completely irrelevant in my life.
      Money really depends on how you want to live – hotels and buying every meal money will not last too long. Camping and cooking every meal can really help you stretch. I’ll be writing a lot more about my budget / money when the trip is done.
      I’m traveling alone on this one, which has it’s ups and downs for sure. Lately I’ve been pretty lonely, so I’m going to try hard to get another backpacker to jump in with me for a while.
      My destinations come from all over the place; other travelers, guide books (lonely planet), locals, etc. Anytime I hear someone say a place is worth going to, I go there :)
      For money ATMs work just fine. My debit card and credit card have worked fine in every single country.
      Start reading around the web about backpacking. Just load your stuff into a pack, catch a flight somewhere and you’re away. You really don’t need much at all and the Lonely Planet for whatever country is a great starting point.
      Hope all of that helps – let me know when/where you decide to go!

  10. Alyssa C says:

    Chris is my hero. I love the guy. The guy is a fricken genius. If he were alive now I would probably make him my prom date (LOL).He had the courage of a lion despite how much problems he had in his life. Knowing he passed on feeling complete in this world is extremely comforting. His ambitiousness, courage, and passion will forever amaze me. If there was anything I would like to say to the man it would be that he was a very good man and will surely be missed forever. GOD BLESS YOU CHRIS!!!!!

  11. Michael Duarte says:

    After watching the film “Into the Wild” I too will soon depart on my adventure down Stampede Trail. I would appreciate some advice on how best to navigate the river once I reach the end of the trail. In addition, please list any items I will definitely require to make this journey.

    Thank you very much for your help !!

    • Dan says:

      Hey Michael – great to hear you have also been inspired by the movie.
      How much back country hiking experience do you have? It’s important you have a lot before tackling the stampede trail, it’s not a little walk in the woods so to speak.
      Have a read through all the replies I’ve posted here and you should get a pretty good idea of what’s involved.
      If you have any specific questions I’m very happy to help out, though I hope you have the skills needed to plan the trip yourself.
      -Dan

      • Michael Duarte says:

        Dan’s question- How much back country hiking experience do you have? I served in the military for 20 years. However, have not ventured out in the wild for about 3 years. I will begin to take long walks 2 to 5 miles and work up to 10 soon. In addition, I will do some mountain climbing prior to this 25 plus mile journey down stampede trail.

        Any other suggestions Dan?

        • Dan says:

          Hey Michael,
          I think I have an ´intermediate´ amount of backcountry experience, whatever that means. I have done probably about 10 hiking trips in the 3-8 day range and about 30 or 40 for one or two nights. I have had numerous bear encounters, camped well below zero, crossed rivers and dealt with serous elevation changes.
          I would suggest spending time out in the wild – sleep in your tent, light a fire with wet wood and hike around with your full pack on.

  12. katleen says:

    hey,ahm you know what guys,,this so very inspiring story about mccandless, I’m just sitting on the couch, change the channel and there watch the story about him..that is my second time to watch that movie,but I can never forget. I don’t know can’t help watching.after watching I search in his life and all in the net where I found this and share my thoughts about the movie..
    I’m just 16 yrs.old..wandering if I can also travel around the globe.but never in wild ones..I called mccandless stupid for leaving his home just to get suffered,I don’t want to do that..but as I go beyond the story..I’m touched, his happy, and he said happiness only real when shared..its true..I can see how life is so wonderful..with the people around us,but sometimes I just want to goof off,just like what he did, to forget how life seems to be hard and weary..someday I wanna travel but afraid of being alone..afraid to end up like him..sad..

    my question is,he has his journal..I wonder where it is..can you post some pictures of it, and quote of what he wrote in it?please thanks..

    • Dan says:

      Hey Katleen. As far as I know, Chris´diary has never been made public, though it´s something I am always on the lookout for. Good luck with your future adventures, I am sure you will find the right mix of adventure and solitude.

  13. Michael Duarte says:

    Dan, do you recommend I venture this solo? Thanks.

  14. katleen says:

    well. then thanks Dan, good luck to you too..

  15. sly dog says:

    we will have an RV and now thinkin of renting mountain bikes to start down the trail to the bus. Do you think the bikes would shave time off the trip? How rough is the trail for a bike? We will take the RV as far as we can then bike till we cant then hoof it. Also what town do we head out from?

    • Dan says:

      Hey Sly,
      Stampede Road, and the trail head out from just near Healy, just North of Denali Nat. Park.
      I read a blog somewhere once where a guy took bikes to save time on the trip.. for sure it will help. There will be times you cant ride them, but dont be discouraged, further along you will cruise and save a ton of time.
      If you can get them across the river, they will help greatly on the far side. Most of the trail there is a really good condition quad track from memory.
      Good Luck, Id love to head how it works out.

  16. Ted Hammersley says:

    Hey guys, I was very inspired by the book and movie “into the wild” read and watched both severel times and I have to say alot of the quotes are true to life. One day i plan on taking the trip, i myself am not a fan of the city life and I would be much happier living in the wild. I currently live in what i call hell (the middle of arkansas) and I hate it. Im not a big fan of hot weather and thats another reason why i will choose alaska (the climate) I thank you guys and its great to see this much love!

    Hope to hear from ya!

    • Michael D. says:

      Ted,

      If you ever come up to Alaska look me up. I live only 2 hours north of Stampede Trail.

      Thanks and good luck making it out of Arkansas!

      Mike

  17. kyle boyd says:

    “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.” -Chris McCandless

  18. Sarah says:

    Wow, what a fantastic adventure you had! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  19. MWStew says:

    In reading all the comments, I see that Chris McCandless has become somewhat of a folk hero. I have read the book. I began to wonder what was Chris’s true reasons for leaving. It was sad that Chris starved to death. He deserved a different fate.

    • Dan says:

      Without doubt, there are those that idolize Chris and his message of get out there and live life, myself included.
      I would love to get my hands on his actual diary some day, it’s something I’m still working on :)
      -Dan

  20. Manav says:

    Alexander Supertramp is a real hero to me and did what not many people can do, he lived his dreams and those fanatics who call his adventure a suicide can never understand it, someday i will also voyage to a unmapped unventured location and live my life.

  21. Daniela says:

    Hi! I don’t speak very well, but i try!
    I was searching on various sites on the story of Chris and see if it really exists … the magic bus and ended up arriving at your site. I was very happy and said to myself that one day I’ll visit there …. he became my idol!
    Hugs

  22. Irene says:

    Hello Dan,
    I’m a young woman living in the french Alps, where I teach litterature and spend all my free time in the nature.We’re planning to go to Alaska next year for hiking, that’s how I felt on your page, just surfing on the net.I just wanted to add two words on the “Christopher’s case”.I was of course really moved reading Krakauer’s book and watching the movie, but I’ve been feeling so sad since…I understand his choice of living by him self, in the woods, but I ‘ve more understood that he wanted to go back at the end, to “share ” what ever kind of happiness life would give him…Maybe I”m to old (i’ll be 34 this year…) maybe it’s because I’ve been recently a mother (our daughter is now 1 year old and will join our trip to Alaska…), but I see things otherwise.I think people should be happy to travel with pals, share nice moments together and enjoy the experience .That’s how I feel.I’m glad to read your lines and see that you actually shared that experience with others.I guess that Mac Candless must have felt very lonely at the end of his journey.In fact, what really was worth was all the people he met on the way long to the Magic Bus.Every one can reach out for his “own magic bus anywhere”.The most important , is then the trail you follow, and to know the way back.Even Thoreau came back=) Take care.

    • Dan says:

      Hi Irene, Great to hear from you & thanks very much for sharing your thoughts.
      I have to agree with you, and I think Chirs’ quote sums this up nicely:

      “Happiness is best when shared”

      -Dan

  23. Sly dog says:

    Hey Dan, I made the trip! It was fun and we had a ball. Did it in two days. Hiked one day out, camped in the bus and next day hiked back to 8 mile lake. Thanks again for your insight

  24. Perry Way says:

    I think it’s sad to see people get all upright and ANGRY over Christopher. Calling it suicide and whatnot. Well maybe it is but sheesh man you people need to go easy on the dissing. You make it sound like you’re perfection at it’s source, and furthermore like nobody has the right to be imperfect. Do you hate the world? How about attempting to understand someone without using your divining rod? Can you be objective? Well, I was moved by the movie. I would like to think I understand some of Christopher but maybe I’m way off, but what’s salient here is that I’m not rubbing what I think in your face. But I do not think he had a death wish at all.

  25. Niamh says:

    Beautiful. Your message to Chris is so heartfelt.
    I hope one day I can make the trip to Alaska, and see what Chris saw and feel what he felt, but unfortunately I live in London, UK!
    Still, we can dream (:

  26. Ross says:

    Its a Shame Chris had to die out in the wilderness the way he did. I can’t help but wonder if he suffered from some sort of untreated mental disorder. He was running away from something, real or maybe just in his mind. I have to wonder if he was ever in treatment for any mental disorders in the past. Just the fact that he left not telling his parents or sister after graduating from College sends up a big red flag for me. No one could have stopped him from a year of self exploration before Law school but he did it in a way of covert secrecy that just isn’t “normal”. Was it his way to punish his parents? Was it his way to punish himself or both? No matter how you want to look at it its a very sad story of a vital life that was wasted whatever the reason was. In the end Chris gained nothing passing away in a bus in the Alaska wilderness and his family will endure a lifetime of pain from his actions. Let’s not forget this was a College graduate not some snot nosed kid without knowledge of what can happen to someone inexperienced out in the wild. I feel bad for him that he didn’t get the professional help he needed to deal with his demons. He chose the wrong path in more ways than one. Hopefully he is at peace now and Hopefully his family can move on and try to lead a normal life ahead.

    • Dan says:

      Hey Ross,
      Many people see Chris’ story from the same point of view as you, and I can totally see why, though I disagree with your premise.
      Somewhere along the line we decided that the point of life is to live as long as possible, irrelevant of quality of life or enjoyment along the way. I don’t think that’s always the point.
      Quantity over Quality seems to be the way these days – irrelevant of everything else.
      If a young man is to die in his 20′s or 30′s doing something he loves, people seems to jump up and down saying what a waste, and ‘if only’ he knew better.
      When an old man dies in his 80′s or 90′s nobody seems to say much, but it’s implied he ‘did well’ in life, and ‘good job’ type of thing.
      Who knows (or cares) if he actually enjoyed and really lived all those 80+ years, it just seems to be important he was above ground.

      The quote that best sums this up in my mind is by Burt Munro, the New Zealand world record holder who rode his home built motorbike into the record books. When climbing onto his beast with the certain knowledge he will sustain serious burns to his leg, he says (sic)

      “I live more on this motorbike in ten minutes than most people live in their entire lives”

      While this quote is a little different coming from a 68 year old than young Chris McCandless, I think the essence is still there.
      Chris’ final note shows he was not disappointed or sad with the life he had chosen and lived, because for absolute certain, without a shadow of a doubt he knew he had lived.

      -Dan

      • Ross says:

        At the point McCandless wrote that letter he was already half dead and really had no choice to say anything else because what happened to him was by his own hand. There is nothing wrong at seeking adventure as long as you do it in a sane manner as you well know. Have you ever read what some experts said about McCandless’ writings and his final plea to be rescued. Its amazing the difference in the writing styles betwen Alex and Chris. To say this was a simple ‘Oh I got lost in the wilderness” story because I wanted to find myself as a man is so mis guided IMO. Please read this article if you haven’t already.

        http://www.farnorthscience.com/2007/10/13/media-watch/into-the-wild-the-false-being-within/

        • Dan says:

          Thanks for the article Ross, it’s a really interesting read.
          Insanity is loosely defined as thinking differently from everybody else in society, which Chris absolutely was, evidenced by burning his money, turning his back on a “good” education, etc.
          So I don’t think it’s a revelation that Chris fits the typical definition of “insane”, and I think it’s pretty likely I fit the same definition. I quit my perfectly good engineering job and traveled and lived in 14 “dangerous” third world countries for almost two years, for fun. Society absolutely says I should have been saving for my future, buying a house, etc. and I’ve been told that many times to my face.
          Just because someone thinks and acts differently to the norms defined by society, and therefore fit the definition of “insane” that doesn’t mean they are misguided, or “crazy”.
          I think the story of the king and the poisoned well water illustrates this perfectly: http://pakistantimes.net/pt/detail.php?newsId=481
          It’s an interesting read, don’t you think?
          -Dan

          • Ross says:

            Yes, That is a great story indeed I will book mark this. Keep in mind however the term misguided does not always mean insane..wink..wink! OK now im going to give you a “gift”. This might be the hardest challange of your life and only men that are truly “ready” to explore there inner core should do this weekend. please go to http://www.mkp.org and snoop around see if anything “fits” for you there. Look for the New Warrior Training Adventure weekend. I did this weekend in 1992 and have now staffed over 50 trainings and we now have centers all over the globe. This weekend can be very difficult for even the hardest core people so we are very careful to make sure a Man is “ready” for his trek within. I don’t normally invite total strangers to this training but one of the gifts the training has given me over the years is to go with my instincts. Check it out. McCandless suffered from an inner struggle that more or less ended up killing him and IMO this can be somewhat blamed on his not having proper male role models. in every aspect of your life and yes to the point of death for some. This inner struggle is usually not a killer but it can sabotaage the heck out of you and your daily life, and for some going through life so unconscious making such bad decisions one will evetually kill them and this is what I truly feel killed McCandless in the end. I wouldn’t really use the term insane. This we call “mens work” a rite of passage that can only be passed on from one man to the other. Very powerful stuff. Hence “The Gift”.

            • Dan says:

              Thanks for the great site Ross, I’ve been clicking around for about half and hour, and I’m sure I will spend more time yet.
              -Dan

  27. Ross says:

    If you have any questions please e mail me. So how does if feel to be back home? How did the Wrangler do throught the trip?

    • Dan says:

      Thanks Ross, I appreciate it.
      I’m actually from Australia originally, so Canada is not exactly “home”, though I have been here for a few years now.
      My brother and his girlfriend have a really good “home” here and it’s awesome to spend time with them and see what life is like.
      The Wrangler was absolutely bullet proof, not a single problem for the whole 65,000kms !
      -Dan

  28. Hervé says:

    Hi Dan,
    i am a french 41 years old man and i recently watched the movie two times in a row and i am still thinking about it.
    You said “I thought The Magic Bus would be a quiet, sad place to spend time – I was quite surprised to find the opposite was the case.”
    Could you to tell us more about the place ?
    Thanks
    Hervé

    • Dan says:

      Hi Hervé, It’s great to hear the movie spoke to you as it has for so many of us.
      I’m happy to tell you anything about the bus.. what specifically would you like to know?
      I was most surprised because of the ‘energy’ from the book filled with tales of life changing events thanks to Chris.
      -Dan

  29. Brian Keith O'Hara says:

    Chris merely had the courage to do, what we all talk about doing. I remember what Julius Caesar said a coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man but one. Certainly Chris was a brave man and should be remembered thusly.

  30. Drew says:

    “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new sun.” -Chris McCandless
    Chris inspired me so much that I have decided to become a traveling writer after I get out of college. I had to read Into the Wild for my AP Language class and I was immediately captured by Chris’s ideals and travels. It is a shame that such a great person had to be taken away from this world because I would have liked to meet him… I’m sure his story will bring out the youth in everyone for generations to come.

  31. Ricardo says:

    Hey Dan, I dunno if you’ll read this but me and my friend are planning on going to the magic bus (we live in Vancouver, Canada).

    Our idea was to drive to anchorage in July (that should be a fun trip by itself) and once we’re there find our way to the stampede trail… any thoughts? tips? anything?

    Thanks man, I really enjoyed your blog, I’m from Chile and I strongly advice you visit Volcan Villarica in the south of Chile, truly a beautiful site!

    • Dan says:

      Hey Ricardo,
      You’ll have an amazing drive to Anchorage. If you want to catch up for a beer, you’ll be driving right past my house in Whitehorse. Let me know when you will be around.
      Hiking to the bus is for experienced wilderness hikers only. The trail is extremely rough and not marked. The river is cold, deep and swift and you are almost certain to pump into bears.
      What kind of wilderness experience do you have?
      -Dan

  32. Chris Smalls says:

    I have read the article about Chris McCandless’ journey to Alaska and the obsticles that he whent through. I would like to say he was a brave and couragous man, and I dont think I could have done what he has done.

  33. Mark Belardo says:

    My English class read an article earlier this week on Chris McCandless’ story. He experienced tough times throughout his journey, and he knew what he had coming. Chris felt he needed to reach some sort of self-realization of the world through his adventure, and he actually went through with it. I think he was very brave for his actions, and lived a life worth living in his own unique way. Much respect.

  34. Déborah says:

    Hello Dan! My name is Déborah i’m 19 and i’m French!

    At first, sorry for my bad english

    Christopher’s story touches me a lot and I’m planning to go to The Magic Bus in Alaska in a year (July 2013)! I must first find an experimented guide and other people who wanting to make this trip. I wish I had advice and some help from someone who has already visited the Magic Bus!
    I hope you will answer, it’s really important to me…

    • Dan says:

      Hi Déborah,

      I know exactly how you feel, Chris’ story touched me very much too.
      I have no idea if there are guides that will take people into this part of Alaska. It’s not a common place to go, and most Alaskans don’t think highly of Chris or his story, so they might not be interested in taking people to the bus.
      I think your best chance would be to post on hiking forums around the internet and see if you can find other people who are interested in going.

      Let me know if I can provide any more help.
      All the best!

      -Dan

      • Déborah says:

        Thank you Dan and KJ!!
        I plan to stay in magic bus for only one week. Dan, I’ll try to find people on hiking forums. I know and am conscious that this trip is dangerous, but I really want to do it. Others did it! Why not me?
        KJ, do you know where can I find the guide on the internet?

        Déborah xo

  35. KJ says:

    Deborah and Dan:

    Yes, they do have guides and naturally the cost isn’t the cheapest around, well, depending on who is available, needing money, and/or willing to take you there. There are several methods to choose from; a basic guided hiking trip on foot, the full setup (4×4, ATV’s, complete trained guide with complete gear–depending on how many days), and they even will take you via helicopter. But in my opinion that would ruin the entire experience.

    My two cents on Chris: You’ve inspired many generations and influenced multitudes, while bringing out the attitude of the “Society” you wanted to avoid. That’s the one positive thing about your adventure, you’ve shown how cruel man can be when they choose. We’ve seen it via your story often. You lived during my brothers time, now deceased, and you were roughly eight yrs. older than I am now.

    I’ve seen multiple boards, including this one, where many generations have been inspired by Chris’s adventure. For those that are in their late teens, early twenties, or late twenties and/or anyone for that matter please make sure to be safe and prepared. Make sure to let someone know where you are, if someone is available. I know we all have at least one person, though they might not care for us or vice versa, in our lives we can let know. If not, let the local fire or police station know your approx. coordinates. Obviously, many are surrounded by family and friends. Make sure you are well equipped, use Dan’s advice and experience, along with multiple websites on the Alaskan Back country, Bears, and the conditions. BE PREPARED! Yes, Chris was able to live off the land, but he was experienced and in shape regardless what people may say. He grew up in the boy-scouts, went on numerous yearly hiking trips w/his family, and journeyed across country a few times prior to even graduation HS. He camped frequently, was a top track runner (High Endurance), and had planned his Alaskan trip for some time prior to leaving–getting more in shape and more well equipped. This is all documented. So for those who believe that Chris just one day said, “Hey, I’m going to hit up Alaska on my own” are seriously diluted in their thinking. Unfortunately, the Tek stopped Chris from returning and the current map he had did not show the river tram a few miles down stream. Plus, we don’t know the extent of his injuries by then. Most likely Chris pushed himself to the limit prior to leaving, with only enough strength to leave the back country. But when the river failed and was forced back to the bus, he most likely slowly began to fade. No one will ever know for sure if he was injured that day or another day, but eventually he did pass away from starvation (Many theories here)…NOT SUICIDE. He documented he tried to leave. You don’t document this if you are about to kill yourself?

    Keep these ideas in mind if you plan a trekking trip ANYWHERE that requires even the minimum of skill. Most everyone on this page has a common thread, we value humanity even though we may not like or agree w/certain societal rules/regs. Thanks Dan for the website…Best, KJ

  36. Dusty says:

    Somehow the book from the bus ended up in my big buggy about 4 years ago and I am taking it back this coming weekend.

    • Dan says:

      Right on Dusty. I’d be interested to hear how the bus looks these days (i.e. damage)
      I expect there won’t be any snow by now.

  37. dave says:

    good luck to you fella , live the dream as many of us cant ; )

  38. KG says:

    This was beautiful man. Thanks for writing about it & sharing your pictures. I can’t wait to make the journey for myself.

  39. Linc says:

    I’m right there with you man, we are on the same wavelength :) Outstanding writeup. Makes me want to visit, sounds like a pilgrimage to a holy place. I am enjoying discovering my own holy places in the Midwest. It’s all in your head and heart :)

  40. cibrutas says:

    goosebumps, goodluck. no money no problem.

  41. Dave says:

    Hi Dan,

    Great post, I used it during research before setting out on the Stampede Trail. You can see the results of that trip, including a video, here:

    http://www.vaguedirection.com/thestampedetrail/

    All the best, and thanks for a great resource.
    Dave

  42. Brandon Mason says:

    Did I just read after all of this that someone ‘accidentally took’ the signing book out of the bus>? wth

    I dont know if he meant a book about the adventure, but he said “from the bus” thats no accident. thats messed up, leave things be, this has probably been unspoken and abided by for over 20 yrs now?

    • Dan says:

      I read that also.

      I know a lot of Alaskan locals really don’t like the bus, and the “inexperienced” tourists it attracts.
      It’s a very controversial topic, and there are plenty of people that vandalize the bus when they get the change.

      It’s a shame, but that’s the way it is.
      -Dan

  43. Brandon Mason says:

    Your write up and interactions with the posters is really well written and sincere. I found this information reading about that sad story of the young man who perished recently in OR I think it was…searching about his fascination led me here. I remembered seeing the movie into the wild probably 8 years ago and had no idea the depth of which I was missing, regarding these international travelers and such. Spent all day watching various youtube vids of the bus, its amazing. At least some of the books were left there, the family bible it seems…I guess each time someone travels there nobody knows how much will be intact. I also noticed on some tube vids from two years ago that big dedication plaque may be missing.

    These seem like two very different stories with similar outcomes, bless both these young people and their brief lives. Should I ever run into someone in the wild I hope they are as trustworthy and well versed in nature as you are Dan. If karma exists it should treat you well. Peace
    B

  44. Purushottam says:

    Cris has,in a way,revolutionized my view of the world.He has quaked the foundation of my belief that family and society r the synonyms of happiness.His death has,however, always traumatized me.Cris’s quest for total freedom has been the notion of my life ever since I read the book and watched the movie.I’m a 17-year old juvenile.And I live in that society that represses my ‘Cris Mccandless’within.But in my life,I have dreamed of renaissance that fraction of Mccandless I mean dreamed of going into the wild for a thoreauvian period like cris.But its true that I cant live my entire life in bushes.Wat do u say,Dan?

    P.S.:English is my second language and I know its nt gud enough.sorry if there is any mistake and sorry if I have polluted this site putting my view.

    • Dan says:

      Hi Purushottam,
      Thanks for your thoughts. Your English is excellent!
      Chris teaches us all many lessons, and everyone takes something different from his story.
      I, personally, very much enjoyed my “Wild Time” and I will be doing it again – sell all my stuff and just get out there an live for an extended period (years).
      Good luck in your quest!
      -Dan

  45. Pati says:

    Hey Dan!
    I`ve just discovered youre wonderful Homepage.
    Its very interesting and touching to read about your adventures and the articles.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!
    I got to your site by reading about Christopher McCandless. He`s very inspiring.
    I don`t just mean inspiring to travel the world…much more to learn to listen to your own heart and soul and to start making your dreams come true.
    Whatever you wanna reach, just be brave and try and i`m sure life will be kind. :-)
    I hope to read more from you and that you reach what you are looking for!
    Have a wooooonderful time! :-)

    Kind regards from Germany!

  46. TJ says:

    I agree with you that the subject of Christopher is a polarizing one. I think the criticism of Chris is often far too harsh. I always enjoyed his sentiment and identify with his internal struggles and wanderlust. I find his story to be more inspirational than cautionary, though it is both. I am lucky to have known from a young age that people, friends and family are the most important part of life. Those who call him selfish for leaving behind his worrisome parents and sister fail to recognize that he had been without any real connection to his parents long before his adventure and that his sister understood what he was doing. Though she missed him, she loved her brother for who he was and would not look to cage his free spirit. I have a question though, why is it that I have always thought Thoreau was a pretentious trust-fund-hippie but idolized McCandles? Did the Eddie Vedder soundtrack really have that much of an impact on me?

  47. Hi Dan
    I live in a small town within the woods in Mexico and one day, sneaking in a small books store near downtown church I found this amazing book “Into the wild”. That very same day I couldn’t stop reading (without even sleeping) until I finished it and when I did it I was not sad, but happy because I knew somehow Chris died doing what he loved at most, in what he believed, and that’s inspiring instead of sad or a bad example for other people who wish to live an adventure like that.
    I’ve read the opinions of those who believe that he was reckless and committed suicide but I don’t agree, he was an old times explorer like those who lived in times with no gps or whatsoever.
    Ever since then I’ve been googling his life and looking forward to know more about him, I also watched the movie and experienced again that same sensation of freedom with his story that I felt when I read the book.
    I read some place about a traveler who crossed the entire world on his bicycle and he said that in a world where the only thing we have for granted is death then time should be the priceless value, instead of money, so I’ve lived dreaming to have the courage and chance to begin my very own trip.
    Last year I did the “Camino de Santiago”, a millenarian pilgrim’s trip of 800 kilometers in Spain on my bicycle and for me that was a very small glimpse of what I’d wish to live when I decide to start my very own story on my bike around the world.
    Many thanks for this post, it’s awesome.

    • Dan says:

      Hi Nelson,

      Muchas Gracias por su mensaje!
      Donde vives en México?

      I agree with you 100% – Chris was very inspirational and can teach us many lessons about how to live life.
      That’s awesome you rode a bike on the Camino de Santiago – my sister hiked it a few years back, and it’s always been interesting to me!

      I wish you all the best on your future adventures, it sounds like you have an awesome perspective!

      -Dan

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