Posts Tagged ‘into the wild movie’

I’ve written about Chris McCandless and the movie Into the Wild quite a bit (here, here and here). Turns out that movie has resulted in many people wanting to visit the bus in Alaska where Chris died. I swear I still want to do this too…

HEALY, Alaska (AP) — Ron Alexander has long been intrigued with the true story of a young idealist who met his death in Alaska’s unyielding wilderness in 1992.

The film adaptation of the book “Into the Wild” only cemented the mystique for Alexander and others heading to Alaska this summer, hoping to retrace the last steps of Christopher McCandless along the Stampede Road near Denali National Park.

Alexander and his fellow travelers want, in particular, to see the old abandoned bus where the 24-year-old Virginian starved to death after more than three months alone in the harsh landscape.

“That’s sort of the heart of the story,” said Alexander, 44, of Arlington, Virginia. “It’s almost like a Jim Morrison grave site, where people just want to go see it.”

This is exactly what residents in the interior town of Healy, 25 miles east of the bus, feared with the release last fall of the movie adapted from Jon Krakauer’s best-seller of the same name.

They envisioned hordes of copycats making dangerous pilgrimages in the footsteps of a character often seen as a spiritual visionary rather than an ill-prepared misfit, as many Alaskans view McCandless.

People from all over the world have journeyed to the rusted bus over the years. But there are signs this could be a boom year for those captivated by a college graduate who turned his back on his wealthy family for his restless wanderings.

The local chamber of commerce has already received a few dozen e-mails from would-be visitors wanting to track the unmonitored route taken by McCandless to the 1940s-era bus, used for decades as a shelter for hunters and other backcountry travelers.

Former chamber president Neal Laugman warns visitors about a terrain — about 180 miles north of Anchorage — with no cell phone service, unpredictable weather, clouds of mosquitoes and the raging Teklanika River, whose swollen banks prevented McCandless from seeking help. Laugman has gotten replies from people who are determined to make it to the bus no matter what.

“I don’t want people to go out there and die. It’s that simple,” Laugman said. “We won’t know that they’re there until it’s too late.”

The EarthSong Lodge is among the last developments along the Stampede Road, which eventually gives way to an old mining trail that traverses the Savage and Teklanika rivers, although the Teklanika is often too high and swift to cross.

As the weather warms, lodge owner Jon Nierenberg sees hikers walking past the lodge every couple days, starting the 22-mile trek to the bus. Most of the travelers are young men.

This year, most of his guests are familiar with McCandless. Or rather, Nierenberg said, they’re aware of a romanticized figure, a characterization not shared by many Alaskans or others.

Released about the same time as the big-budget movie was the independent documentary, “The Call of the Wild,” in which filmmaker Ron Lamothe attempts to debunk what he calls lingering myths about McCandless.

“I don’t look at them as nut jobs,” said Nierenberg, a musher and former backcountry ranger. “I can easily see where they’re coming from. But I think they’re sort of idealizing an idea rather than a person.”

Alexander, who plans to make the trek with a friend or two in late August, considers himself a bit of a wanderer with a passion for the untamed West. Leaving his urban surroundings as much as possible is crucial for him, said Alexander, a salesman for a Washington, D.C., documentary production company.

Alexander said he’ll be much better prepared than McCandless and will visit other parts of Alaska not connected to the doomed young man.

“We’re not coming up just to do this little pilgrimage,” he said. “This is one little element. We’re not completely nuts.”

Ridership is significantly higher in the “backcountry safari” offered by Alaska Travel Adventures, which this summer is noting the “Into the Wild” connection.

Also up are the backpackers tramping past a cooking camp where safari riders stop for a wilderness meal, said manager Nick Prosser. Many hikers heading back are dehydrated, blistered and “pretty beat,” he said.

Prosser, who has read “Into the Wild” and seen the movie, plans to hike out to the bus himself before he heads back home to Celina, Texas, at the end of his seasonal job.

“I just would like to go for the adventure,” he said. “I’m up here. I might as well go.”


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I received a comment over the weekend from a reader who knew the real Chris McCandless. As you may know, the movie Into the Wild was based on the journey Chris McCandless, played by Emile Hirsch, had across the country and into Alaska. She said:

“I grew up with Chris… the whole situation was tragic. He was a light from the beginning.”

I’ve heard from cool people since I started this blog in September, but I found this comment especially unique and special.

Remember his last diary entry, “Happiness only real when shared.” How true.

Into the Wild comes out on DVD March 4. Bell Guy has it in his Netflix queue. I can’t wait to see it again.

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I’ll blog about the Vegas trip soon, but it is late so I wanted to write a quick post.

Tonight, I went to see the movie “Into the Wild.” Have you seen it? Have you even heard of it? Probably not because it has not been released to the usual thousands of theatres. I use too many superlatives on this blog, but this movie was extraordinary.

Into the Wild is a true story about a college grad, Chris McCandless, that disappeared from his family, ventured across the United States and then began an Alaskan adventure. He did this with virtually no supplies and even less money. I’m not going to spoil the movie by delving into the details, but suffice it to say it is one you won’t soon forget.

You really need to get to this movie. Don’t say you’ll wait until it comes out on DVD, because it is not the same. Alaska on the big screen is an awesome sight. Emile Hirsch, the star of the film, on the big screen is smokin hot.

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