Into the Wild

topic posted Thu, July 3, 2008 - 12:18 PM by  Unsubscribed
I'm pretty sure this movie has had a thread before, but I couldn't find it.

I just wanted to say, the movie pissed me off, the ending pissed me off even more.

The kid had several months to prepare for his 'great alaskan adventure' and all he took with him was a bag of rice and a .22 rifle.

The kid got stranded on the wrong side of a river.... oh wait.... there was a schoolbus on his side... I wonder how it got there? I wonder if he should explore a little bit and find out how a schoolbus got across the river?

The kid was not 'In the wild' if he was living in a hollowed out schoolbus in the first place. By it's very existence, he couldn't have been more than twenty miles into the boonies, along terrain that a schoolbus could obviously navigate.

He was really stupid to stuff himself on a wild plant. Even if he thought it was good food, anyone with common sense will know that you don't stuff yourself with wild plants, even if they are 'food' plants they can still make you very sick if you're not used to them.

I could go on about all the really stupid, really wrong survival moves that he made throughout the movie. ANd considering he put himself in the situation in the first place, voluntarily, he needs a slap in the face even more for not preparing.

It was frustrating the same way that horror movies are frustrating. Watching some idiot run upstairs when they should be running out the front door, separating to find the lost member when they should be forming a defensive group....

Except this kid actually was that stupid, in real life. It should have been called ''Camping with an idiot''
posted by:
  • The books is considerably different than the movie and a bit more enlightening as to some of the details. In addition there are some inaccuracies (creative license) in the story in the movie that didn't come out until after the movie was made including the assumption in the movie that it was the plant that did him in. That was apparently an initial assumption of the investigation that has since been called into question. Just an FYI that I thought I'd mention as I just read the book about a week ago. Now how's that for timing? LOL
  • > Except this kid actually was that stupid, in real life.

    People seem to enjoy vilifying McCandless, and while I would agree he was too brash and impulsive for his own good I wouldn't go so far as to call him stupid.

    I haven't seen the Hollywood version, but I did read the book. The book makes it clear that while he did ultimately starve to death, it wasn't necessarily from a lack of food. McCandless was apparently smart enough to have brought along one of the best field guidebooks for edible plants in the region, but that book has a rather serious omission when it comes to wild potatoes. While it notes that the potatoes are edible, it fails to note that the seeds aren't; on the contrary, their toxin acts in a way which prevents the body from absorbing nutrients from other food. So even if you eat, you still die of starvation.

    Sure, I would have brought a map and compass, and with those I would have known that there was a way to cross the river just a few miles south of the bus. And sure, I would have brought more gear and provisions. But that's me, and no one writes books about me.

    McCandless survived every adventure he undertook except the very last one, and even then there's a chance he might have survived that too with a different field guidebook. Hard to say for sure, of course.

    But I don't think he was stupid, even if he wasn't the sort of person who would be my first choice to take backpacking. :)
    • Unsu...
      Just the mere presence of a school bus would indicate that the river is traversable at some point. Anyone who is not an idiot would know that! School busses aren't exactly the most 'off-road-capable' vehicles in the world. He was probably just a few miles from the nearest road, and not beyond walking distance from whatever town is along that road. If I had a couple of weeks during which to starve to death, you can rest assured I would explore the entire bank of that river and find a way across, or die trying.

      The last thing I would do is crawl into a sleeping bag and just wait for death like a quitter. There was at one time, a point where he knew something was terribly wrong with himself, his health was failing, and he sat around camp just wasting valuable time and waning energy until he was too weak to make his own rescue attempt. Starvation be damned, a person can go a long ways without food if their life depended on it, as his obviously did.

      I call it Darwinism.
      • The bus was one of three that were dragged into work sites by CAT's quite some time ago to serve as cabins for work crews who were building a mining trail (I think it was a mining trail anyway, it might have been a timber trail, I don't remember. I'll have to go back and re-read that part to be sure). When the venture went bust 2 of the 3 busses were removed from the other two sites and that one was left to serve as a hunting shack. The trail itself has since been reclaimed by nature some time ago. The site is now accessed by fording the river with 4x4's and then proceeding on ATV's to rest of the way.

        As I said before the movie is rather short on some of the facts and differs a good bit from the book. The book itself was written by the author who wrote the initial story in Outdoor magazine (which the movie is based on). Truth is I'd never take a movie (or a book for that matter) as the end all be all source for information even if it was "based on a true story" because there's only so much you can tell in 2 hours and still be able to sell it. As to the book I take a similar view, which is why I looked at BOTH of them before forming any opinions on the subject. Having said that it is my understanding that the author later spent a good deal of time investigating on his own and doing interviews with people and the book gives a good deal more background info than was covered in a movie designed to sell to the public. I'm not saying he didn't make mistakes, because obviously he did. BUT on the other hand he's not the "idiot" some people would like to make him out to be either.

        As for what he did or didn't do in his last few weeks, details are actually pretty sketchy all around, after all he was there by himself so the only record of events is a VERY limited diary he kept on book pages, a few rolls of undeveloped film found at the site and physical evidence. As such any claim to his actual actions or lack there of is conjecture at best.

        As for the area of Denali itself, I have a friend who is currently working at the Denali lodge for the summer and she informs me that except for a few part roads through the general area the location is quite off the beaten path. In fact for the last 3 months shes had no luck at all in finding someone able to take her out to the site because of the difficulty of accessing it.
        • Unsu...
          I figure the river at times after the melt off was probably shallow enough to drive the bus accross.
          • Here's an excerpt from the book including information on how the bus got where it was (para 2 - 4).


            On the northern margin of the Alaska Range, just before the hulking ramparts of Mt. McKinley and its satellites surrender to the low Kantishna plain, a series of lesser ridges, known as the Outer Range, sprawls across the flats like a rumpled blanket on an unmade bed. Between the flinty crests of the two outermost escarpments of the Outer Range runs an east-west trough, maybe five miles across, carpeted in a boggy amalgam of muskeg, alder thickets, and veins of scrawny spruce. Meandering through the tangled, rolling bottomland is the Stampede Trail, the route Chris McCandless followed into the wilderness.

            The trail was blazed in the 1930s by a legendary Alaska miner named Earl Pilgrim; it led to antimony claims he'd staked on Stampede Creek, above the Clearwater Fork of the Toklat River. In 1961, a Fairbanks company, Yutan Construction, won a contract from the new state of Alaska (statehood having been granted just two years earlier) to upgrade the trail, building it into a road on which trucks could haul ore from the mine year-round. To house construction workers while the road was going in, Yutan purchased three junked buses, outfitted each with bunks and a simple barrel stove, and skidded them into the wilderness behind a D-9 Caterpillar.

            The project was halted in 1963: some fifty miles of road were eventually built, but no bridges were ever erected over the many rivers it transected, and the route was shortly rendered impassable by thawing permafrost and seasonal floods. Yutan hauled two of the buses back to the highway. The third bus was left about halfway out the trail to serve as backcountry shelter for hunters and trappers. In the three decades since construction ended, much of the roadbed has been obliterated by washouts, brush, and beaver ponds, but the bus is still there.

            A vintage International Harvester from the 1940s, the derelict vehicle is located twenty-five miles west of Healy as the raven flies, rusting incongruously in the fireweed beside the Stampede Trail, just beyond the boundary of Denali National Park. The engine is gone. Several windows are cracked or missing altogether, and broken whiskey bottles litter the floor. The green-and-white paint is badly oxidized. Weathered lettering indicates that the old machine was once part of the Fairbanks City Transit System: bus 142. These days it isn't unusual for six or seven months to pass without the bus seeing a human visitor, but in early September 1992, six people in three separate parties happened to visit the remote vehicle on the same afternoon.

            In 1980, Denali National Park was expanded to include the Kantishna Hills and the northernmost cordillera of the Outer Range, but a parcel of low terrain within the new park acreage was omitted: a long arm of land known as the Wolf Townships, which encompasses the first half of the Stampede Trail. Because this seven-by-twenty-mile tract is surrounded on three sides by the protected acreage of the national park, it harbors more than its share of wolf, bear, caribou, moose, and other game, a local secret that's jealously guarded by those hunters and trappers who are aware of the anomaly. As soon as moose season opens in the fall, a handful of hunters typically pays a visit to the old bus, which sits beside the Sushana River at the westernmost end of the nonpark tract, within two miles of the park boundary.

            Ken Thompson, the owner of an Anchorage auto-body shop, Gordon Samel, his employee, and their friend Ferdie Swanson, a construction worker, set out for the bus on September 6, 1992, stalking moose. It isn't an easy place to reach. About ten miles past the end of the improved road the Stampede Trail crosses the Teklanika River, a fast, icy stream whose waters are opaque with glacial till. The trail comes down to the riverbank just upstream from a narrow gorge, through which the Teklanika surges in a boil of white water. The prospect of fording this latte-colored torrent discourages most people from traveling any farther.

            Thompson, Samel, and Swanson, however, are contumacious Alaskans with a special fondness for driving motor vehicles where motor vehicles aren't really designed to be driven. Upon arriving at the Teklanika, they scouted the banks until they located a wide, braided section with relatively shallow channels, and then they steered headlong into the flood.

            "I went first," Thompson says. "The river was probably seventy-five feet across and real swift. My rig is a jacked-up eighty-two Dodge four by four with thirty-eight-inch rubber on it, and the water was right up to the hood. At one point I didn't think I'd get across. Gordon has a eight-thousand-pound winch on the front of his rig; I had him follow right behind so he could pull me out if I went out of sight."

            Thompson made it to the far bank without incident, followed by Samel and Swanson in their trucks. In the beds of two of the pickups were light-weight all-terrain vehicles: a three-wheeler and a four-wheeler. They parked the big rigs on a gravel bar, unloaded the ATVs, and continued toward the bus in the smaller more maneuverable machines.

            A few hundred yards beyond the river the trail disappeared into a series of chest-deep beaver ponds. Undeterred, the three Alaskans dynamited the offending stick dams and drained the ponds. Then they motored onward, up a rocky creek bed and through dense alder thickets. It was late afternoon by the time they finally arrived at the bus. When they got there, according to Thompson, they found "a guy and a girl from Anchorage standing fifty feet away, looking kinda spooked."

            Neither of them had been in the bus, but they'd been close enough to notice "a real bad smell from inside." A makeshift signal flag--a red knitted leg warmer of the sort worn by dancers--was knotted to the end of an alder branch by the vehicle's rear exit. The door was ajar, and taped to it was a disquieting note. Handwritten in neat block letters on a page torn from a novel by Nikolay Gogol, it read:


            The Anchorage couple had been too upset by the implication of the note and the overpowering odor of decay to examine the bus's interior, so Samel steeled himself to take a look. A peek through a window revealed a Remington rifle, a plastic box of shells, eight or nine paperback books, some torn jeans, cooking utensils, and an expensive backpack. In the very rear of the vehicle, on a jerry-built bunk, was a blue sleeping bag that appeared to have something or someone inside it, although, says Samel, "it was hard to be absolutely sure.

            "I stood on a stump," Samel continues, "reached through a back window, and gave the bag a shake. There was definitely something in it, but whatever it was didn't weigh much. It wasn't until I walked around to the other side and saw a head sticking out that I knew for certain what it was." Chris McCandless had been dead for two and a half weeks.

            Samel, a man of strong opinions, decided the body should be evacuated right away. There wasn't room on his or Thompson's small machine to haul the dead person out, however, nor was there space on the Anchorage couple's ATV. A short while later a sixth person appeared on the scene, a hunter from Healy named Butch Killian. Because Killian was driving an Argo--a large amphibious eight-wheeled ATV--Samel suggested that Killian evacuate the remains, but Killian declined, insisting it was a task more properly left to the Alaska State Troopers.

            Killian, a coal miner who moonlights as an emergency medical technician for the Healy Volunteer Fire Department, had a two-way radio on the Argo. When he couldn't raise anybody from where he was, he started driving back toward the highway; five miles down the trail, just before dark, he managed to make contact with the radio operator at the Healy power plant. "Dispatch," he reported, "this is Butch. You better call the troopers. There's a man back in the bus by the Sushana. Looks like he's been dead for a while."

            At eight-thirty the next morning, a police helicopter touched down noisily beside the bus in a blizzard of dust and swirling aspen leaves. The troopers made a cursory examination of the vehicle and its environs for signs of foul play and then departed. When they flew away, they took McCandless's remains, a camera with five rolls of exposed film, the SOS note, and a diary--written across the last two pages of a field guide to edible plants-- that recorded the young man's final weeks in 113 terse, enigmatic entries.

            The body was taken to Anchorage, where an autopsy was performed at the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory. The remains were so badly decomposed that it was impossible to determine exactly when McCandless had died, but the coroner could find no sign of massive internal injuries or broken bones. Virtually no subcutaneous fat remained on the body, and the muscles had withered significantly in the days or weeks prior to death. At the time of the autopsy, McCandless's remains weighed sixty-seven pounds. Starvation was posited as the most probable cause of death.

            McCandless's signature had been penned at the bottom of the SOS note, and the photos, when developed, included many self-portraits. But because he had been carrying no identification, the authorities didn't know who he was, where he was from, or why he was there.
            • Unsu...
              Bob, I have officially been trumped on this one. Hats off to you and your very well-researched opinions.

              I still think he was an idiot. Maybe not as much of an idiot as before, but still an idiot. hehe.
              • Oh don't get me wrong I still agree that he made a LOT of damn stupid mistakes. But by the same token so have a lot of "experienced" explorers who made it back, so he's hardly the first or the last to do so. But for the most part you only ever read about the ones who didn't. o yeah he made some pretty bone head moves and made it thought to the other end on a lot of other "adventures" but if you tempt fate often enough it'll catch up with you eventually.

                But I just don't see him as being the complete idiot that people would like to make him out to be either. He did quite a number of things before Alaska and made it through quite a number of things prior to that. So he was hardly stupid. Foolish and full of bravado, absolutely. But an idiot? Not entierly.

    I agree, the kid was a complete knuckle head. Spoiled and self asorbed. It pisses me off that his family and people want to make him a hero or the very least a maryter.
    He had no clue, while very intelligent, made VERY stupid mistakes.
    I know wilderness survival and have taught it and tell people all the time, get complacent with nature, she'll kill you. Nature doesn't care if you're one with the earth and want to save it. You get stupid, you get punished.
    Even the most hard core survivalists have back up plans when then go on treks.
    • Unsu...
      I haven't read the book or seen the movie so I can't comment on it,. All I will say is , if lost anywhere in the US, if you what to be find is start a fire, a really big fire. If possible throw oil or a tire on it. Some one will be by to write you a ticket and you can leave with them.
      Kinda of tongue in cheek:)
      • How true!
        • Unsu...
          haha Gordy

          you're totally right.

          'In the case of the 'into the wild' story, this college kid made a plan to go out into the alaskan wilderness. spent weeks (or months?) preparing, saving up, and researching. He was totally there by choice, it's not one of those 'stranded after an airplane crash' or some similar survival story. You oughta watch it sometime. It's still a pretty good flick, but if you're heavy into wilderness camping, or have at least an average ammount of outdoors-common-sense, some of the things he does will frustrate you or make you cringe. It really is like the frustration of the girl who trips and falls while being pursued by the bad guy with an axe... struggles for a while, cries for a while, THEN finally gets up and runs again..... oh and the famous 'can't get the right car key into the ignition because I'm so scared' conundrum.

          The difference is, 'into the wild' is based on a real guy.
          • Unsu...
            I read the book back in 00. Shortly after I read 'into thin air' They did question why he didnt start a forest fire for rescue.
            • Unsu...
              Why didn't he start a forest fire?

              Because of global warming! DUH!!!
              • Unsu...
                I cant remember if global warming was an issue back then. I think we were still worried about hair spray and the ozone and the next ice age.
              • I'm not so sure he would be perceived as any less selfish or foolish if he'd burned a million acres just to get a helicopter to show up.
  • Jon
    offline 2
    I ts a shame for any one to pass away like this ,but after spending 38 months as a A rtic Paratrooper in ALK it kinda comes down to either you are prepared or you are going to die so either you are going to have your SHTG or you don't make it witch is it ???t
    • I think the kid died of arrogance. He figured that people had been living off nature for millions of years, so why couldn't he? "If primitive man can survive, then I, the more advanced modern man should have no trouble" His arrogance got him killed.
      • Unsu...
        About ten years are so ago, a couple went four wheel driving just out side of Vegas. The truck broke down. It is believed they set there for 7 to 10 days before the died. A one point in time they broke the mirror off the truck to try to signal passing planes.
        They were 12 mile from Vegas. A nite walk.
        I read a book on desert survival , it read,
        If your vehicle breaks down remove the spare tire, if you are to weak to remove the spare, BURN THE VECHLE!.
        If the had done that they be alive to tell an interesting tale of survival.

        • Unsu...
          You would think that they would see vegas at night from 12 miles. Just follow the glow.
          • It's the result of a general dumbing down of civilized people. We've come to the point were we think we are no longer responsible for our own survival. You here constantly stay with your vehicle...if nobody knows your out in the middle of nowhere with your vehicle how do you expect them to look for you in the middle of nowhere. They assume people are automaticly going to start looking in the desert for you. Nutjobs who committed suicide by ignorance.
          • Unsu...
            you can see the glow of Vegas from 50 miles away. The big lite on the Luxor is visible even farther
            • Unsu...
              well, once again, there's Darwin for ya.

              I think domesticated white turkeys are better suited to wilderness survival than the average American these days.