Sean Penn directed the movie INTO THE WILD in 2007. The film was based on the book of the same title by John Krakauer. Both told the story of 24-year-old Christopher McCandless who, disillusioned with the trappings of modern civilization, decided to make like Thoreau and live off the land. He hiked deep into the Alaskan backwoods where, prevented from returning by a swollen river, he subsequently starved to death. McCandless sheltered and died inside an old abandoned bus. That bus became an important marker, a shrine, even. People would hike out to the bus, following in McCandless’s footsteps. Not a few of those hikers ended up having to be rescued. Some were killed.
The authorities got tired of having to conduct rescue efforts, and this week they removed the bus from the wilderness. It’s understandable, but it’s sad. The bus was *something*, y’know? A touchstone. A piece of history, an artifact. And a symbol of a perhaps foolish yet still alluring dream. I hope they put it in a museum.
“Obviously, there’s something that draws these people out here,” said an unnamed Alaska State Trooper. “It’s some kind of internal thing within them that makes them go out to that bus. I don’t know what it is. I don’t understand. What would possess a person to follow in the tracks of someone who died because he was unprepared?”
A good question, but somewhat moot now that the bus has been removed. I say somewhat because the draw of the wilderness will remain, luring the unfortunate. With or without some touchstone like the bus, the wilderness does possess this strange mystical, undefinable quality that beguiles the unwary.
But back to the bus: how did a Fairbanks city transit bus, number 142, end up way the hell out there in the first place? Time to google.