Back to nature, naively

The other day we rented the movie Into the Wild at the video store. It took me a few days to get it out of my head. Have you seen it? It’s a glimpse into the last few years of the short life of Christopher Johnson McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp. He was a a young guy who graduated from college, renounced his real name, his Social Security card and his money, and tramped his way around some of States for a few years. His big dream was to head up to Alaska and just be one with nature. But he ended up dying there.

Sorry if I’ve just ruined the climax of the movie for you, but it just astounds me that this is what happened to him. “Alex” was naive and unprepared for the Alaskan wilderness; I read later on Wikipedia and in an Outside magazine article that he could have saved his own life. Apparently he had crossed a small river to get to the place where he stayed for most of his time in Alaska (an abandoned old bus used by hunters). But when he decided to go home several weeks later and hiked back out to the river, it was a teeming thing that he couldn’t cross. So he went back to his camp and ended up dying of starvation. What I can’t get out of my head is that apparently if he’d purchased a map of the area, he would have known that 1/4 mile from where he tried to cross the river there was a hand-pullable basket that he could have used to ford it. But he didn’t know it was there. McCandless could have saved his own life had he taken one of the most basic self-preservation measures of buying a map.

Apparently young men try to rough it in Alaska this way quite often. I wonder, have people like McCandless glorified the Thoreau-like idea of getting back to nature so much that they think they can get away without taking steps to ensure their own survival? I’m stumped.

Good movie though.

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