With the hope to live simply for sometime in solitude he decided to venture into the Alaskan wilderness. He embarked upon this journey somewhere in April 1992 with little food and equipment. It is assumed that he died around 4 months later, in August 1992. It was estimated that he weighed 30 kgs. It was reported that he died of starvation near Lake Wentitika in Denali National Park and Preserve.
After all I was able to read about him I would regard him as an intelligent but eccentric man with an eager to test his limits to see just how far he could go. In May 1990, he had donated $24,000, given to him by a family friend for his law degree, to Oxfam International, a hunger prevention charity. So we can say that he was a very charitable man with no greed for money or fame. He did it with pure intentions. Many who were lucky enough to be in his company thought of him as an intelligent man who loved to read. He had seen many adventures but like so many thrill seekers, it was never enough. He took pride in surviving with minimalistic gears and funds. Also he made little preparation because obviously he felt that one couldn’t prepare for everything that was out there and that you have to face these challenges as they come and make the most of what you find because this is the true spirit of survival.
For many years McCandless had dreamt of an “Alaskan Odyssey” where he would live in the Alaskan wilderness, far away from civilization and 'find himself'. Naturally, he kept a journal with himself which would describe his physical and spiritual progress as he made it day by day. He hitchhiked from Enderlin in North Dakota to Fairbanks in Alaska and was last seen alive on April 28th 1992 by a local named Jim Gallien. He gave him a ride from Fairbanks to the head of the Stampede Trail. Jim Gallien must’ve conversed with McCandless and was deeply concerned about him and the nature of his odyssey. McCandless carried no compass with him, no supplies and no experience in the Alaskan wilderness. Jim Gallien repeatedly tried convincing him not to go through with his idea but there was no convincing him. Despite Gallien’s warnings he continued with his quest refusing any form of assistance except for a pair of Wellington Rubber Boots, 2 Tuna Melt Sandwiches and a bag of Corn Chips.
He hiked for long and lived off the land pretty well for many days. He carried with him many books, including one which described the nature of local plants. He was equipped to hunt animals and so he poached birds, porcupines and squirrels. On June 9th 1992 he had killed a moose but because he wasn’t able to preserve the meat properly, it got spoilt in a matter of days. He took the advice of local hunters and smoked the meat rather than to slice it thinly and then air dry it.
His journal contained entries which covered a total of 112 days. And the nature of these entries ranges from ecstatic to grim. In July, he decided to leave the place after living there for three months. But when he followed the trail back, he found that it was blocked by the Teklanika River. The river was higher with much faster currents than when he crossed it in April. Because of his lack of preparation he wasn’t aware of a hand operated tram (which could cross the river) around ¼ of a mile away from where he had previously crossed.
It is assumed that he lived in that area for a total of 113 days and presumably, towards the end he sent out an S.O.S. The note read:
"Attention Possible Visitors. S.O.S. I need your help. I am injured, near death, and too weak to hike out. I am all alone, this is no joke. In the name of God, please remain to save me. I am out collecting berries close by and shall return this evening. Thank you, Chris McCandless. August?"The final words in his journal were Beautiful Blueberries.
He tore the last page from Louis L’Amour’s memoir, Education of a Wandering Man, which contains an excerpt from a Robinson Jeffers poem titled "Wise Men in Their Bad Hours"
Death’s a fierce meadowlark: but to die having made
Something more equal to centuries
Than muscle and bone, is mostly to shed weakness.
The mountains are dead stone, the people
Admire or hate their stature, their insolent quietness,
The mountains are not softened or troubled
And a few dead men’s thoughts have the same temper.
“I HAVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE AND THANK THE LORD. GOODBYE AND MAY GOD BLESS ALL!”The moment I read his incredible story, I cried. I cried like I have never cried for a long time. Even in such a stage of his existence he managed to write such a beautiful line. It makes me want to rethink my whole life. It makes me feel so incredibly greatful for what I have. Everyday we see people take that for granted and they always want more. So did I. Its human nature. It isn’t wrong but we must also make time to thank god for his blessing over all of us every single day. We live in a safe environment with people we love and have the freedom to do whatever we want. We aren’t deprived of anything. Yet in that lust of wanting more we lose what we already have. In the words of Princess Leia "The more you tighten your grip, the more … will slip through your fingers". The ‘…’ signifies that she said star systems, but without it the quote gets the point across.
McCandless’ body was discovered on September 6th 1992. Though many will react sympathetically towards his passing it has also seen its fair share of criticism. Many believe that his lack of common sense was one of the main reasons he passed away. He refused to bring a compass or enough equipment or supplies or a map for that matter. He could’ve easily avoided this situation and saved his own life. His carelessness and reckless nature was to blame.
In the end, people can choose what to believe in. You could be sympathetic towards him or you could think that he wanted to commit suicide.
Whatever you believe in, you must learn from his experience, his deprivation and the final realization he had of life. Keep the ones you love close to you. Each and every single day is a blessing so thank god for what you have. Always work towards making yourself a better human being. You live in a community, so think of the society as a whole and help everyone you can as much as you are able to.
This story has changed my opinion on life. I don’t know if this will last me a lifetime or disappear overnight like so many sudden realizations. I do hope that it’ll bring a change in me for the better and hopefully to everyone else.
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