‘Into the Wild’ explores professional loner’s thirst for adventure

By Andy Hobbs, Mirror book review

By Andy Hobbs, Mirror book review

So what was it about Chris McCandless, the idealistic hiker killed by his own ignorance?

As the subject of John Krakauer’s documentary-esque book “Into the Wild,” McCandless’s story has blossomed into full-blown folklore for adventurists. It’s also a cautionary tale of underestimating nature’s position as king.

McCandless took freedom to the extreme while lusting after a hobo’s lifestyle. Upon finishing a four-year degree with honors at Emory University, McCandless crossed through society’s fringes and onto a blank page. At least it was blank in his mind’s eye. Ever the dreamer, McCandless lost himself in novels by John Muir, Jack London and Leo Tolstoy, treating their prose like gospel.

The symbolism found in these authors’ stories became McCandless’s doctrine for living in an intensely personal world where he served as both leader and antichrist. He could run from salvation but couldn’t hide.

He burned all his cash in the Arizona desert. Then he ditched his car and anything else chaining him to mainstream civilization. He found solace in loneliness, holding acquaintances at arm’s length but bonding with people who cushioned his bare-bones sojourn. His super-searching mentality embodied the ultimate free spirit attitude, but also the tragic naivete of youth.

He hoped to cap this two-year odyssey with a terribly difficult test of survival in the Alaskan wilderness. It would be the pinnacle of his life as a “supertramp,” the last hurrah before returning to society as a changed man. Previously, on an expedition along Mexico’s beaches, he found luck catching fish to supplement his self-imposed rations of rice. He always carried several pounds of rice to fuel his lean and withering frame.

Despite stern warnings from fellow tramps and experienced outdoorsmen, McCandless felt ready to enter the wild. He surely understood the magnitude of this risk, as he wrote friends to remind them that he may not leave the Alaskan bush alive.

Carrying a handful of supplies, a puny rifle and no map, McCandless embarked on the Stampede Trail outside of Fairbanks. Several miles in, he encountered an abandoned bus. This became home-base as he foraged for berries and endured the trials and tribulations of hunting.

After three months in the wild and a handful of critical mistakes, McCandless died. Just weeks later, hikers discovered his corpse, wrapped in a sleeping bag aboard the abandoned bus.

Of course, more details can be found in Krakauer’s riveting book to fill in the blanks. But what strikes the heart about McCandless is that he indeed lived for the moment, in case the next moment was his last.

A young man from upper-middle class America ditched life’s conventional path to blaze a trail of his own. His travels were coated with an idiosyncratic spirituality that worshipped the Earth and shunned mankind.

But armed with tunnel vision and something to prove, one must wonder whether McCandless would choose the same fate if given another chance.

In his quest to distill life’s primal pulses into a pure product, he neglected one vital detail to the story he intended to share upon leaving Alaska and re-entering civilization: The end.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@federalwaymirror.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.federalwaymirror.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Life

Kiddus Fecto. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Pop Culture
MoPOP’s Sound Off! contest showcases local Federal Way talent

Kiddus Fecto, 21, is among eight performers of the museum’s 20th annual event on May 15.

Jan Barber, project manager of Make Music Federal Way, rings bells on Jan. 18 in honor of the more than 400,000 people who have died from COVID-19. Olivia Sullivan/The Mirror
Make Music Federal Way set for June 21

Free event to enjoy live music from 4-8 p.m. at the Performing Arts and Event Center plaza.

Rajiv Nagaich is an elder law attorney, author, adjunct law school professor, and retirement planning visionary who has achieved national recognition for his cutting-edge work with retirees and his contributions to the practice of elder law. He is the founder of two firms based in Federal Way: Life Point Law, an elder law and estate planning firm, and AgingOptions, a firm that provides retirement-related education to consumers and professionals.
Kick the Can: It’s the American Way | Senior Lifestyles

If you’re a certain age, you probably played Kick the Can. Do… Continue reading

2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Car review: 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

By Larry Lark, contributor How do you top the 2021 Dodge Durango… Continue reading

Shelley Pauls photo
March of Diapers collects more than 305K diapers for local nonprofits

The seventh-annual event included donations from local businesses, nearby cities, and dozens of generous individuals.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat AWD
Car review: 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat AWD

By Larry Lark, contributor If you want something truly special, get in… Continue reading

Local resident Marianna, 14, dressed up as Bun Bun the Easter Bunny to visit dozens of families in Federal Way and nearby cities in March and April. Photo courtesy of Maggie Cante Tinza
Easter celebrations in Federal Way

Residents enjoyed socially-distanced scavenger hunts, sweet treats galore, and Easter Bunny visits.

2021 GR Supra 2.0
Car review: 2021 GR Supra 2.0

By Larry Lark, contributor Cars seem to be built for stages of… Continue reading

2021 Genesis G80 RWD 2.5T Prestige
Car review: 2021 Genesis G80 RWD 2.5T Prestige

By Larry Lark, contributor The 2021 Genesis G80 RWD 2.5T Prestige is… Continue reading

Cheryl Hurst stands among the thousands of diapers being stored at Billy McHale’s in Federal Way as part of the annual March of Diapers charity drive. (Photo by Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror)
Local charity collects thousands of diapers in annual drive

Federal Way area nonprofit organization Do the Right Thing has been collecting… Continue reading

Rajiv Nagaich is an elder law attorney, author, adjunct law school professor, and retirement planning visionary who has achieved national recognition for his cutting-edge work with retirees and his contributions to the practice of elder law. He is the founder of two firms based in Federal Way: Life Point Law, an elder law and estate planning firm, and AgingOptions, a firm that provides retirement-related education to consumers and professionals.
The bride was 19, and the groom was 89 | Senior lifestyles

Is it love? Or is it exploitation? Last fall, a 19-year-old employee… Continue reading

Rotary Club of Federal Way President Steve Ball, right, signs the Program of Scale agreement with the Rotary Foundation with Federal Way Rotary Club member Bill Feldt. Courtesy photo
Rotary Club of Federal Way leads $6M effort to end malaria in Zambia

Federal Way’s Bill Feldt spearheaded the program in partnership with World Vision USA and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.