An abandoned bus on the Stampede Trail in Alaska, made popular by the book and movie Into the Wild, has been removed. According to Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige, the decision to remove the bus, sometimes called the “Magic Bus,” was made for public safety.
Christopher McCandless made his way to the area in 1992 and died of either starvation, poisoning, or a combination of the two. McCandless’ story was first told by writer Jon Krakauer in a 1993 story titled Death of an Innocent, which appeared in the January 1993 issue of Outside. Krakauer later expanded the 9,000-word story into a book.
The Stampede Trail in Alaska is not for novice adventurers. There is no cell service in the area with unpredictable weather and rivers that can suddenly swell and surge, stranding people like Christopher McCandless. Five Italian tourists had to be rescued from the bus earlier this year and one tourist from Belarus died there last year. McCandless’ story, which was also told on the big screen in Sean Penn’s 2007 movie Into the Wild, has inspired a lot of people to attempt to find the bus.
The Alaska Army National Guard moved the bus as part of a training mission “at no cost to the public or additional cost to the state,” Corri Feige said. The “Magic Bus” was airlifted out of the area and placed in a secure area while officials figure out where to permanently place it. The 1940s-era bus was placed in the area, which is near Healy, Alaska, in 1961 to house construction workers who were sent there to work on road construction. The project was later abandoned. Feige had this to say in her statement.
“We encourage people to enjoy Alaska’s wild areas safely, and we understand the hold this bus has had on the popular imagination. However, this is an abandoned and deteriorating vehicle that was requiring dangerous and costly rescue efforts. More importantly, it was costing some visitors their lives.”
Christopher McCandless was 24-years old when he ditched his map and ended up on the Stampede Trail in Alaska. When he found the bus, the Teklanika River had swelled up, preventing him from crossing. He was stranded there for 114 days, which he documented in a journal right before he died. A suitcase with sentimental value to the McCandless family was found before the bus removal and given to them. It has not been revealed what was inside the suitcase.
Into the Wild inspired a lot of people to attempt to make a pilgrimage to the bus like Christopher McCandless did. 15 search and rescue operations have been recorded by the state between 2009 and 2017, with two people drowning in 2010 and 2019. For now, it is unclear what the state will do with the bus, but they encourage people to properly prepare for their adventures in the Alaskan backwoods. Anchorage Daily News was one of the first to report on the bus removal.
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