In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.
I have always be fascinated and saddened by the story of Chris McCandless. The book, “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer, is one of my favorite. Jon tells about Chris, who died of starvation, on August 18,1992 — 112 days after he walked into the wild, and 19 days before six hunters would happen across the old bus numbered 142 and his body inside.
Soon after graduating from college, Chris left home and disappeared, changing his name and covering his tracks to avoid being found. He wanted to get away where no one could find him. He wanted to be a “nobody.”
By all accounts, Chris was very bright and charming. One of his dreams was to challenge himself by living off the land in Alaska. In the Spring of 1992, he followed the Stampede Trail and crossed the Teklanika River to live by himself near Denali National Park. He wanted to live by his wits, and burned his bridges by going with only ten pounds of rice, a 22 rifle and some books. He ignored the advice of people who lived in the area, and refused to take any maps or arrange any follow-up. He learned to hunt and gather, kept a journal and took occasional pictures. Though he got very thin, he seemed to be doing well. After several weeks, he decided to return to civilization, but found the Teklanika River to be full and wild, impassable. He returned to the abandoned bus he was inhabiting, possibly to wait for the waters to recede. He later became very weak, and eventually died in the bus. Ironically, a couple of miles from where the Stampede Trail crossed the Teklanika River was a line across the river with a tram attached on Chris’s side. He could easily have crossed the river. The exact cause for his death is not known.
Feelings about Chris McCandless’s adventures vary. Many feel he was stupid and reckless to take these chances. Others that he suffered from mental problems that made him “want to get away from everyone and just be a nobody.” No matter what you believe, it is, all the same, a sad ending to a person who felt they wanted to hide from everyone, maybe even God.
David said this about God in Psalm 139, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
Can I hide from God? No. And when I find out just how good He is, why would I want to?
If you want to read a short version of the story of Christoper McCandless you can read “Death of an Innocent,” published by Outside magazine.