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The Last Days of Christopher McCandless: A Journey of no return

The final journey.

By Deji AkomolafePublished about a month ago 3 min read

Christopher McCandless, a young man with a restless spirit and a deep yearning for adventure, set off on an odyssey into the Alaskan wilderness in 1992. His quest for a life of simplicity and self-reliance ended in tragedy, but his story, immortalized in Jon Krakauer's book "Into the Wild" and its film adaptation, continues to resonate deeply with those who dream of escaping the confines of modern society to seek a more authentic existence.

A Journey Begins

Christopher McCandless, born into a well-off family in El Segundo, California, grew increasingly disillusioned with the materialism and conformity he perceived around him. After graduating from Emory University in 1990, he took a radical step towards a different life. He donated his savings to charity, abandoned his possessions, and set off on a cross-country journey, adopting the name Alexander Supertramp.

McCandless's travels took him through the deserts of the Southwest, the wheat fields of the Midwest, and the forests of the Pacific Northwest. He sought to test himself against nature and find meaning in solitude and simplicity, inspired by the writings of Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Jack London. His ultimate destination was Alaska, where he hoped to live off the land, far from the trappings of modern civilization.

Into the Alaskan Wilderness

In April 1992, McCandless hitchhiked to the Stampede Trail in Alaska, a remote and rugged area known for its challenging conditions. His destination was an old Fairbanks city bus, left behind by a road construction company decades earlier. Located on the eastern bank of the Sushana River, the bus, known as Bus 142, would serve as his shelter.

The bus offered rudimentary protection from the elements, equipped with a bunk, a barrel stove, and some basic supplies left by previous visitors. McCandless set about making it his home, documenting his journey and his efforts to live off the land in a journal and with his camera. His entries reflect a mix of triumph and struggle, as he hunted small game, foraged for edible plants, and explored the wilderness.

The Struggle for Survival

Despite his enthusiasm and determination, McCandless faced significant challenges. Hunting proved difficult, and he often relied on small game like squirrels and birds, along with wild plants and berries. His diet was insufficient to sustain him over the long term, and his physical condition began to deteriorate.

A critical turning point came in July when he decided to return to civilization but found the Teklanika River, which he had crossed earlier in the season, swollen with snowmelt. Unable to ford the river, he was effectively trapped in the wilderness. His journal entries from this period show a growing sense of desperation as his food supplies dwindled and his health declined.

The Final Days

By August, McCandless was in dire straits. He continued to document his ordeal, taking a poignant final photograph of himself, gaunt and weary, holding a farewell note that read, "I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!"

On September 6, 1992, a group of moose hunters found Bus 142. Inside, they discovered McCandless's decomposed body, weighing only 67 pounds (30 kg). The official cause of death was ruled to be starvation. However, some experts later suggested that toxic compounds in wild potato seeds he had consumed might have impaired his ability to metabolize food, exacerbating his malnutrition.

Legacy and Lessons

Christopher McCandless's story is both inspiring and cautionary. His journey into the wild represents a profound and universal quest for freedom, authenticity, and a deeper connection with nature. His rejection of materialism and conventional success resonates with many who feel trapped by societal expectations.

However, McCandless's tale also underscores the importance of preparation, knowledge, and respect for the wilderness. His tragic end highlights the thin line between adventure and survival, and the critical need for balance between idealism and practicality. While his courage and commitment to his ideals are commendable, his lack of preparedness ultimately proved fatal.


Christopher McCandless's journey into the wild remains a poignant narrative of the human spirit's search for meaning beyond the confines of modern society. His final photograph, a haunting testament to his resolve and the stark reality of his plight, captures the essence of his adventure and the tragic end of his quest. While his story continues to inspire those who dream of a simpler, more authentic life, it also serves as a powerful reminder of the unforgiving power of nature and the importance of preparation and respect when venturing into the unknown.

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About the Creator

Deji Akomolafe

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    Deji AkomolafeWritten by Deji Akomolafe

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