Thursday, August 21, 2008

Return to Bus 142

Fairbanks Bus 142 rests peacefully in the warm summer sunshine

I recently returned to Bus 142 with my friend Heather. I didn't have any intentions of trekking back out to the dilapidated bus perched on the small bluff above the Sushana River. Heather is an artist and was interested in doing some paintings of Bus 142 and any remaining items of Chris McCandless's that may still be lingering in the rusting piece of steel. I had never been out there in the summer so I was curious to experience first hand the challenges of this journey as described by so many people making the pilgrimage to the site.

I thought we may be able to shave off some time by riding bikes the first few miles of the trail. As with any traverse across Alaska, I expected to have damp feet for the duration of the trip. Recent wet weather turned much of the Stampede Trail into a mud bog or intermittent stream bed which made for some fun riding. We ditched the bikes about 5 miles in where I expected and then continued on foot.

The most daunting obstacle anticipated by most travelers is the Teklanika River. This is the cold, silty, and fast moving ribbon of water that prevented Chris McCandless from returning from the wild in July of 1992. We crossed the glacially fed channel with ease in my packraft.

The fall colors were just beginning to make an appearance as aspen leaves trembled in the light breeze and flashed bright orange hues in the afternoon sunlight.

The Stampede Trail is an easy walk for much of the 9-mile stretch between the Teklanika River and Bus 142.

I setup camp on a gravel bar just below the bus on the bank of the Sushana River.

Wild blueberries were abundant in the surrounding forest and we added these to our morning oatmeal.

Fragments of shattered glass dangle from a window in Bus 142.

So we arrived at the bus to find it in complete disarray. A handful of windows had been bashed in, broken glass was scattered about, and most of the items in the bus had been overturned. Garbage was strewn all around the perimiter and into the adjacent stand of spruce trees.

I was disappointed and saddened that someone had come this far to totally trash this place. I don't have any sort of personal connection with Chris McCandless's story or legacy -but- I certainly respect this as a place that has significant meaning to many people. I see Chris McCandless as a guy that was seeking adventure, space, and a certain distance from society as many of us do here in Alaska...but unfortunately he lost his life in doing so.

I could only imagine how disappointed people traveling to this destination from far off places would be when they arrived at a ransacked bus. My first and only reaction was to tidy it up and make it presentable to any future guests. We scrounged up some spruce bows and fabricated a makeshift broom to sweep up the broken glass and various junk, shook out the carpets, and collected all of the trash.

The interior of the bus after the clean-up. I had also retrofitted some of the broken windows with sheets of cardboard in order to prevent rain from entering and mildewing the bus.

There a number of journals that have been signed by previous visitors to the bus.

The hull of Bus 142 is a palette of colors

Heather rests in the warm sunshine before we hit the trail and head back to the truck.

71 comments:

Alex said...

Hey Ed,

Amber and I were proud to learn that we have such a conscientious friend. Thanks for cleaning up the Bus!

Christopher Reichert said...

Ed you're a good man. Nice work.

Miki said...

Hey Ed! Nice work cleaning up the bus. I am amazed how the bus looks exactly like the movie, it is hard to believe it really exists in Alaska. I would love to make it up there someday to see the bus! Let me know next time you plan on going back to the bus 142. Again, nice work! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I live in the UK and we have no place here that is anything like Alaska.
I just watched the movie and was touched and saddened by the story of Chris. I wish he had found another way of dealing with his issues, he was a great guy who ultimately did very little for humanity, what a waste.
I was disgusted to read the bus had been vandalised, but wow! U guys did a great job, i believe this world functions because of good people like yourselves, well done.

félix said...

Hi Ed,

You did the right thing. It's very respectable from yourself and you cannnot have done something better to help.

I hope someday I will get there to.

Thanks you

Beautiful Disaster said...

I too have been touched by the story of Chris. I watched the film not even knowing it was a true story until the very end. I recently found the book in my mom's library and started reading it. The more I learn about Chris the more I feel a spiritual connection to him. I want to someday go to bus 142 and experience a day in the life of Chris. I was really upset to learn that it had been vandalized, but I know you did the right thing by cleaning it up. Thank you for sharing your photos and experience for the world to see.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ed,
I feel really close to chris by going through your posts, I am simply dumbstruck to his willpower, he was and always shall remain the strongest person I have known. I am so glad to have found and seen you do the place well. It so nice to know you have visited the bus a number of times. Please if you can guide me through this i too would love to visit the bus to pay tribute to Chris. If you can contact me on cbsheth@gmail.com I would be really really thankful to you. I am from india and I would be visiting US in mid 2009, If you can help me or guide me with this I can come prepared or if you know of anyone who is planning a trip to pay the tribute I would be really glad to interact with them and join along.

Thank you for the latest feeds.

God bless you.
RIP Chris.

Nicola said...

It is such a pleasure to know that people like you exist. Your actions show people the meaning of respect and may it come back to you 10 fold.

Nikki
Dublin, Ireland

Athelas said...

Hey Ed, this is the first time I've stumbled across your blog. Chris's story really touched me, and so did this post. Thanks for cleaning the place where his memory lies. Maybe I can visit the bus one day.

Matt Macfie said...

Hi Ed,

I applaud you with your efforts to preserve the site of Bus 142. A friend and I are planning an expedition to Bus 142 this coming April-May. We will be sure to pay it the same respect as you and your friends. Any info you such as maps, advice etc you would be willing to pass along would be greatly appreciated. macfie_guitars@live.ca.

Regards,

Matt M.

Anonymous said...

It's great to know that there still good people out there. Cleaning bus 142 was very respectful of you all.

J-P Monette
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada

WriteMyNameInYourSky said...

Kudos to you for showing such immense respect, even for a landmark that holds little meaning to you. Such is the kind of peaceful acceptance that is needed throughout our world today. Chris' story seems sad to me, only because his fervor and intellect are seldom matched. Such a waste.
Rock on.

Walkoff said...

Thanks for being a great person,and a betterment to society. I'll do the same when I get there.Hopefully I won't have to.

Kerry said...

Hey man, Thanks so much for posting the pictures, as well as cleaning up the place. I recently saw the movie and read the book. I'm already trying to plan a trip out there myself... maybe this summer, or next... who knows. I just hope its still around and in good shape.

I'm all the way down in Louisiana so it might be rough, but I'll make it up there one day!

Craig N said...

Thanks for cleaning up the bus and posting your pictures.

Whitney said...

Thank you for taking the time to clean up a place that is special to so many. Having never traveled to bus 142, it was also nice to see your pictures.

Anonymous said...

Just saw the movie again and cannot stop thinking about Chris. Thank you for respecting his trek and cleaning up the bus. Your pictures make the story all the more real and also emphasize how easily he might have made it through, had he known when and where to cross the river, as you did. You even made it back to your truck in one day! Take care of your self out there in the wild!

Anonymous said...

there is an old chinese saying about a king who put a big stone in the middle of the road and hid himself behind the bushes to see what will happen, for the whole day people walked by the stone, complained about it, why does nobody put it away, why is the king letting this and so on. at the end of the day one old man came by. he saw the stone and moved it with difficulty to the side. the king rewarded him greatly.
thank you for cleaning up the bus...

lin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lin said...

Surprised after finding out this is a true story, can't stop crying!
Hopefully I'll eve visit the Bus 142.

Take care,

Linda

Anonymous said...

That is a shame someone vandalized the bus. I don't view the bus as a shrine, but a memorial for Chris and those who are like him.

Thanks for taking care of it.

Annie said...

A friend and I are planning to visit the bus this summer and I'm touched that you would put effort into cleaning up the mess! Thank you!

Sarah Thompson said...

Hello!

I have been fascinated with Chris for a good year now, and I'm reminded of him every day. I'm only 18, but I was wondering if anyone had any advice on the best, least expensive ways to get out to the bus during the summer? Thanks, and I appreciate the good deed you have done in fixing up Chris' home. Thank you.

Alina said...

Thank You Ed for being such a good guy and cleaning up the bus, it's a symbol to many of the hopes and dreams Chris had when he first arrived in Alaska.

Anonymous said...

I dont know who else noticed but the stove in real life and the movie are different

Branden S said...

The stove may have been different. They filmed the bsu scenes just south of the actual bus for easier filming. Also, i am truly grateful for your contributions to keeping the bus in good health and preserving it for years to come. Christopher's story has been an inspiration to me for many years and i look up to him as a very brave man. Thank You.

Ms. Capton said...

Hey,

I just wanted to know if it would be ok if I referenced your blog to my students. I teach in Western NY in a small city called Tonawanda and many of my students have read the book and watched the movie and I think they would LOVE to see first hand that the magic bus still exists but are too scared to venture that far from home. Thus, I figured seeing YOUR adventure there would definitely motivate them to never give up their dreams. Thank you

Joe said...

You're a good person for cleaning up what I call a historical site. I love the McCandless story and the fact that somebody ransacked Christopher's death site is revolting. Thanks for cleaning it up!

Anonymous said...

Hey Ed, i live in miami, FL and I'm 18 years old. I randomly found this site when researching about Chris McCandless with a friend. I admired Chris for his spirituality and wanting to know the real meaning of life. I just want to say thanks for cleaning it up because I was really disappointed to find that someone had vandalized it since i wanted to someday soon go visit the site.

Annie said...

Oops, forgot to put who i was. ^

reno nelson said...

Hey Ed you are a strong influence to all of us high school students every where and you are a kind and thought full man

Joe Hamilton said...

It´s nice to see that there are still people that have respect for some things in this world.

Love and respect

Joe Hamilton

Veronica said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences at the bus. I found them poignant and meaningful. You certainly expressed a depth of understanding and a universal acceptance and respect.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to finally hear from a few Alaskans who understand & respect Chris and his Spiritual Vision Quest for Truth. Those arrogant, SELF RIGHTEOUS Alaskans (and others) who trash his memory (and vandalize his memorial at the bus) with hateful insults and slander... they are the hipocrites and naysayers that Chris was trying to escape from. How many of them could have survived 113 days in the wild with only a 10 lb bag of rice? How many of the hateful cursing mob are prisoners trapped in their warm, secure, predicable, programmed, boring monotonous lives of comfort... afraid to risk really being alive, taking risks and experiencing the wonders of the the world, as Chris Did?

Hugo Neves said...

I dream that one day i can visit alaska, maybe, who knows to climb Mt. McKinley ... and without
doubt, make a visit the bus 142.

Thank you both by cleaning the place .

Hugo Neves
Portugal

BB said...

Love your blog!
very inspiring and truly awesome photos!

just saw the movie into the wild, and found this post very uplifting!
could you imagine staying out there at the bus for as long as he did?

oshea12566 said...

It is a shame people ransacked the bus. Thanks for cleaning it.

Grecy said...

Hey Ed,
Thanks so much for the awesome writeup and pics. Partly because of you, I was able to make a trip to the bus myself and had an amazing experience.
You can see my photos and trip report at my site, The Road Chose Me: http://dangrec.com/?p=647
Thanks Ed, keep up the edventures.
-Dan Grec

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed.
I live in Chile, South america. Gracias por limpiar ese desastre y ofrecer respecto por el espíritu de Chris y su muerte.
Saludos.
Greetings

Mario

Russell said...

Ed, I just read your journal from the ski trip and and summer trek to bus 142.. you are a good man for cleaning the place up. very thoughtful of you. I just moved to AK this summer and plan on heading to 142 so thanks for the great info. such a great state with amazing hikes and people. thanks!

Brian said...

Ed,

I like so many others have really been touched by the story of Chris McCandless. It saddened me to see the bus vandalized in that manner, but I found your thoughtfulness and generosity even more powerful than those feelings of sadness. Thank you very much for cleaning up the bus. I plan on paying my respects there one day and it means a lot to me that you took time to fix the place up.

- Brian from NJ

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing these photos and stories of your trip! they are very inspiring, exploring the earth is something i want to do ond day hopefully in the near future.
i saw into the wild and was moved/inspired by it. i was sad to hear it was vandalized, but im glad you cleaned it up! im going to visit the magic bus one day!
its great seeing people doing what i one day wish to do!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the posting. I actually watched this movie last night on Showtime, I plan on getting the book as well to read.

Ian said...

Thank you for cleaning up the bus, i would be very disappointed to find it in the condition that you did. RIP Chris McCandless...

Anonymous said...

Hi! I would like to go there, but I don't know how so can you help me?

marie_maude128@hotmail.fr

Anonymous said...

Oh my god.. I'm from Finland and after I watched this movie, Into the wild, about a year and a half ago, I haven't been able to think anything else. I really want to visit that kind of awesome and so plain, rude place. And I think that what you did by cleaning this place up, you really made so huge number of magic bus visitors glad. I was so pissed of to find out that someone's been blowing this place up in the wind after your last visit. Me and my husband are going to go there this year. I hope it's still fine.

I'm sorry for my English. I'm still just a Finn. :) But if you don't mind and if you still have time I would like to ask you to mail me 'cause I'd like to hear so much about that place. maarit.pajunen (at)laurea.fi

Anonymous said...

One day, I'll visit that bus as well. And thank you for cleaning it up! You are a good man. You have the respect for others. What more can we ask for? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Someone said the stove is different in the movie. Actually the bus in the movie is another bus at a completely different location. If you look closely you can see the differences and especially the location is quite a bit different in the movie. Jim

Gordon said...

Sad story, but what is even more sad is how people have become so enchanted with Chris McClandess' saga. He was no more than a misguided soul that trekked into a territory that was more than he was prepared for and he died because he had no respect for the wilderness and no plan. Bus 142 is no shrine. It is a bus that was used to transport miners in and out of the area in the 1940s and was apparently abandoned when it broke down. After that it has been used for shelter by hunters who had the proper respect and preparedness to be in the wilderness. Chris simply stumbled across it and would probably have been better off had he never found it as it turned out to be his coffin. What I haven't heard mentioned is that he was only 7 miles from a ranger station that had medical supplies, food, and provisions. Why doesn't anyone ask why Chris was not aware of that? Because he was foolish. How can anyone expect an outcome any different than what happened? I don't.

Flo seldnor86@yahoo.fr said...

Hi people,
I'm french and wish I could realise a trip like this. Perhaps during this summer 2010.
I realy thank you for what you did for this bus which represent for me the idea of loneliness, nature and respect and a very big trip to go from france to this bus.
It sad that some people cant't understand this.
thank you for what you did and for your blog
PS, if you want to contact me for further informations and help(hard to organise a trip like this) you're welcome.

Michell said...

Hi, I want to go too. I am looking a group to join cause I dont have a lot of experience in Hiking, but I am in good shape. if you have plans, can I go with your group. thanks Michell

Cassie said...

This comment is for "Gordon"---

It's very sad that all you got from the movie was that Chris was unprepared....
That's not the point of the story...the message is that he wanted to get away from the materialism and fakeness of society. No one is claiming him to be a master of the wilderness, and this is not a movie of how to survive....He wanted to experience a SIMPLE life and nothing more....

Thank you Ed for your beautiful pictures, story and your good deeds in cleaning up the bus. Very respectful thing to do :)

I just watched the movie, and it really inspired me. I can't wait to read the book.

"So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greather joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun." -Christopher McCandless

Dyer said...

@Cassie, I couldn't agree with you more.

@Ed, I read your "Skiing into the wild" post & thoroughly enjoyed it! I was stunned when I read the footnote that you had returned to find Bus 142 vandalized the following year.

Though I have never even been west of the mighty Mississippi, I am vicariously connected to the site of the Magic Bus through Chris' story. Thank you for showing the respect and gratitude toward the McCandless family and fellow friends & adventurers who have visited and honored this memorial before you in the proper way.

Good people, like you, are out there. It's a shame it takes a bunch of vandals to allow the integrity of those good-willed to shine.

Hopefully someday I will make it out there. Until then, I hope all visitors exhibit tremendous reverence for the Magic Bus, as you did.

Anonymous said...

spero anche io di andare a vedere il bus 142 un giorno partendo dall'italia e arrivando in alaska....

i hope to go to the bus 142...starting from Italy and arriving to the alaska to honor chris and all person who crossing the world to find oneself...
KISS BY ITALY!

Sarah said...

Wonderful pictures. Its great of you to have cleaned things up.

nathan zepp said...

i only hope to be able to travel to bus 142 my goal is to spend a month or two up there and really see what living in the WILD is like. thanks to you and people like you these places will be around a little longer. thank you and good travels

nathan zepp

Anonymous said...

After reading the book and then seeing the movie back in 2007, I became very interested in Chris' story. Hopefully, one day, I will be able to make the pilgrimage that Chris, you, and many others have taken to Bus 142. As for now though, I'm thousands of miles away and most likely wont be going anytime soon. It's great to see you cleaned up the bus as well. It's sad to hear someone would go all those miles just to bash in some windows. Hopefully, if I go, it will be in good shape. Thanks for the pictures!

- Brian

Anonymous said...

Heyyy !! I'm from Quebec in Canada and next summer I will visite Alaska with a friend. I want to know how to go at the bus ?? Do you take stampede trail ?? Do we have to enter in the denali park ??

I'm waiting for an answer !!
pleasee write me back !

Geneviève
adress : b.abe_@hotmail.com

Brian Keith O'Hara said...

Thanks, guys for cleaning up and doing whatever repairs you could--you are the good guys---like Chris. I don't understand the people who did this----or the people the people who feel the need to mock and attack Chris. I figure whatever mistakes he made have been paid in full. I read some of his writings while he was an editor on the Emory Newspaper. I knew there was a reason I liked him. I think that is the highest complement you can ever pay anyone. I may have never met you, but, I know, I will never forget you. If I can get there, I'll help clean up your magic bus if you have room for me.
Your Friend,
Brian Keith O'Hara

Carolina said...

I'm 18 years old, and i've been dreaming to visit the magic bus since I was 15, but i never did cos it was too far away from home.
That place means a lot to me.
Now I'm old enough, I intent to do it as soon as possible.
All I want to do is thank you for what you have done. Really :)

So...thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Ed - I just recently saw the movie Into The Wild and then went out immediately to buy the book. Since then, I have been reading as many articles as I can find on Christopher McCandless. While many have opined about Chris, calling him a nut case, or a young man with a death wish, and some others revering him as a hero, I don't think anyone, other than maybe his immediate family, can fully understand all of Chris's motivations and what drove him to the decisions he made throughout his relatively short life. However, from everything I've read so far, Chris was an intelligent, responsible, caring person and an adventurist. It was probably his young age that made him feel somewhat invincible.

Anyway, after reading this Blog of your 2nd trip back to the Magic Bus, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for taking the time and effort to return the bus, which had been so badly vandalized, back to a condition where it can be once again recognized as a memorial to a young human being who so tragically died there in mid-August of 1992.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping my dream alive.

PA

Anonymous said...

I hate Hubris, therefore I hate Chris Mccandless.

To treat the site where stupidity died, as a memorial is moronic.

I don't think the bus should have been vandalized, it may save the life of a more deserving person than Alex Superdumb.

Having spent time in Alaska I understand and agree with the perspective of the locals who believe chris/alex got what he deserved.

...And still later it crept close to the man and caught the scent of death. This made the animal bristle and back away. A little longer it delayed, howling under the stars that leaped and danced and shone brightly in the cold sky. Then it turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were the other food-providers and fire-providers. – End

Tyler said...

brilliant stuff, thank you for your compassion.. "No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild."

Anonymous said...

thank you for cleaning the bus... my heart sank when i read that it was vandalized but i was so happy when i saw how nicely you cleaned it. i hope to visit the bus next summer, if i have the guts!

fl

anonyomous said...

I'm pretty sure the vandle you refer to was a bear.

Anonymous said...

i am ambivalent towards the story of chris mccandless but nonetheless very intrigued. i find it hard to find his story inspirational, unless one is moved by lonliness, emptiness, and death. i do however admire his courage to take such a journey into an unknown. i am delighted to see ur photos and comments about them tho as there is a definite respect for chris and his convictions

jirikreisinger said...

i aprreciate so much, that there are such people like u..and feel very sad, that somebody can destroy grave of man who decided to swim againts the flow of society and materialism...U almost made me cry as whole story of Chris did....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for everything.

Anonymous said...

Your photographs are remnants of a poetic eye, such eloquence in the spirit. Thank you for the long distance experience.

--FTLM

Steven said...

Faith in humanity restored.