Magic Bus 142, Stampede Trail, Healy, Alaska in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild

PHOTO CREDIT: Erikhalfacre. This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

“Alaska has long been a magnet for dreamers and misfits, people who think the the unsullied enormity of the Last Frontier will patch all the holes in their lives.  The bush is an unforgiving place, however, that cares nothing for hope or longing.”1

Into the Wild is Jon Krakauer’s expert recounting of the events that led Chris McCandless to leave behind a world of seeming comfort to meet his end in the wilderness of Alaska.  The book follows McCandless’s journeys across the country and further and further from civilization.  McCandless’s enthusiasm for life endears him to many of the people he meets on the road, while his ability to survive inhospitable environments makes his story fascinating.  The story ends at Magic Bus 142 outside Healy, Alaska but the entire journey McCandless took, as retold by Krakauer, captures not only the restlessness youth but the desire to find something more meaningful in life beyond the comforts of society.

Magic Bus 142, as McCandless described it in his journals, is an old Fairbanks City Transit Bus.  Krakauer explains how the bus had been taken into the wild by a construction company hired to turn the Stampede Trail into a passable road for trucks hauling ore from mines along the Stampede River.  When the job was cancelled, the bus, fitted with bunk beds and a stove, was left as a shelter for hunters.  McCandless had hiked out to the bus in the spring of 1992 and spent the summer there.  Melting snow made crossing the Teklanika River impossible when he intended to leave, and he ultimately died in the bus.  Since his passing, the book and subsequent film–also named Into the Wild–have made the bus a destination for people from around the globe.  A guest book left by Chris’s sister Carine and a small plaque remind visitors of Chris’s journey.

Find Into the Wild at a local library or on Amazon.

1Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Anchor, 1997. 3. Print.

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