Listening to: “Blue Ridge Mountains” – Fleet Foxes

Apparently, Into the Wild has spurred a rash of pilgrimages out to the spot where Christopher McCandless met his end, in an abandoned bus along the Stampede Road in south central Alaska. I can’t say I’m surprised. If I go to Alaska–which I hope to sometime in the next few years, if and when I can cobble together enough cash–I’d probably also be tempted to make the trek.

But it’s sad. People setting off into the wilderness not in search of nature or of themselves, but in search of a grave? A monument? The Stampede Road becoming, well, stampeded by tourists?

But here’s the worst:

“Even tourists without plans to see the bus can still view a piece of the saga. Excursion businesses in Denali National Park and Preserve are offering popular off-road McCandless tours that take visitors partway along the muddy, rutted Stampede trail. Some people are disappointed that the scenery is flatter than the flashy snow-covered peaks shown in the movie, only to discover those scenes were filmed closer to the tiny town of Cantwell about 40 miles to the south.”

Do your research before you strap on the ol’ rucksack, kids; it’s a fic-ed up adaptation, not a documentary. And also, seriously, “McCandless tours”? If Chris were around today, what would he think of that? So much for a aescetic’s quest, away from all that is commercial to find the heart of things.

One more thing about this article:

“They envisioned hordes of copycats making dangerous pilgrimages for a character portrayed as a spiritual visionary rather than an ill-prepared misfit, as many Alaskans view McCandless.”

See, why does it have to be either-or? Why can’t it be both? McCandless was both a spiritual visionary and an ill-prepared misfit. I’m sure in his day, people were calling Siddhartha Gautama a freakin’ idiot, too. (Not that I’m say McCandless was the next Buddha).


Alright, thus endeth the rant. I could use a trip into the wastes myself at the moment. Instead, I’m going to New York next weekend. Practically the same thing, right?


“My brother where do you intend to go tonight?
I heard that you missed your connecting flight,
to the Blue Ridge Mountains, over near Tennessee.

You’re ever welcome with me any time you like,
Let’s drive to the country side, leave behind some green-eyed look-a-likes,
So no one gets worried, no.
So no one gets worried, no..”

2 thoughts on “*Sigh*

  1. Hi, came across your blog during a search for Chris McCandless after seeing ITW… although I’m a little older than him and Rachel Corrie, their stories both fascinate me too (I was actually considering the parallels between them myself). You have a great writing style BTW, good luck in your travels!

  2. I’ve been to Alaska twice–in 2003 and 2005. The first time I went to Geographic Bay which is near where that guy who lived with the bears um… lived. At that time he was still alive, by the next trip he’d become grizzly chow. Much like your average barmaid, they are only your friends until you sufficiently annoy them and then they become your worst enemy.

    Second time I took the obligatory schoolbus ride through Denali and saw the bus. This was before the movie had been released so there wasn’t as much awareness of the story yet. However, the thing that was a lot clearer that time was the incipient Carribeanization of the Far North, by which I don’t mean global warming but what the cruise ships are doing by bringing 10+ times as many tourists through places as they’ve ever seen before. In the past Alaska was a destination primarily for hunters, fishermen, outdoorsfolk who could care less if there was a spa or any sort of shopping beyond beer, bait, and ammunition. While tourists, these folks were in many senses coming to be part of the Alaska they knew, not just to see the postcard views. But the new crowds also bring in money, and with most Alaskans only able to work from April to October, that is never unwelcome.

    Anyway, my fear is that the next time I go up there, it’s going to be like 2002 when I decided to go to Thailand after reading The Beach, and went to this little seaside town a friend recommended. I got there a few months after a new airport had opened, and when I got there the streets were full of nice young Danish couples pushing baby carriages around, and fat old German tourists in sandals and tube socks. The scenery was great and the beer was still cheap, but a secluded and risque retreat it definitely was not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s