Into The Wild - WTF?

I have just been poking around various websites concerned with the popularity of going for a walk along the Stampede Trail in Alaska to visit Bus 142.

Background for those who do not know what this is about: This bloke called Christopher McCandless decided to wander off along the Stampede Trail in Alaska and "live in the wild". He found this abandoned bus about 20 miles in and stopped at that point for a few months living in the bus. He failed to obtain enough food from the surrounding forests because he was a crap hunter and so he gradually starved to death.

A few years later this dick called Jon Krakauer heard about the story and wrote a book about it entitled "Into The Wild". He dramatised and sensationalised the tale to a ridiculous degree and made a massive song and dance about what is essentially a non-story about one guy dying of being a pillock. In particular, despite the clear evidence from McCandless's diaries that the amount of food he was managing to find was a long way short of that necessary to sustain life, which makes it clear that the cause of his death was nothing more obscure than plain ordinary slow starvation, Krakauer made a massive fucking pointless mystery out of it, coming out with all this bollocks about how inexplicable the guy's death was and constructing elaborate and sinister-sounding theories about him being poisoned by the toxic alkaloid swainsonine contained in some plant seeds he'd eaten. That the toxic action of swainsonine is pretty much nothing like Krakauer's description of it seems to have made no difference to Krakauer, nor to the readers of his book who overwhelmingly can't be arsed to look it up and see what bollocks he's talking. The same applies to the well-established botanical fact that the plant concerned does not even contain any fucking swainsonine in any case.

A few years after that along comes some other dick and makes the book into a movie. I've not seen the movie (though I have read the book) but by all accounts it does the standard movie thing of changing the story and adding extra doses of bullshit to make it even more dramatic and sensational while mendaciously presenting it as being unadulterated fact.

Such is the stupidity of the human race that not only are people happy to accept the output of two professional bullshit artists as fact without bothering to spend a few minutes on google to check up on it, they find in it some reason to make McCandless into some sort of big fucking hero and engage in pseudo-religious pilgrimages to this bus.

This is where it gets really weird. It seems that a large percentage of these pilgrim types somehow manage to get stuck and have to be rescued, leading to the rescue services making a fuss to try and get the bus removed in the hope that they won't bother trying any more. It is this which led to me poking around the abovementioned websites, trying to work out the answer to this question: just what the fuck are these people doing that so many of them get stuck?

The websites are full of all these dire warnings about how dangerous it is and how this "long hike in mountainous territory" will more likely kill you than not. They then completely devalue these warnings by publishing sets of photos taken by people who have walked the route. It seems the only truly dangerous bit is crossing the Teklanika River which at the point where it intersects the trail is usually much too deep and fast-flowing to be forded, which really is not much of a danger because it's kind of fucking obvious unless you're fucking blind or something.

This trail is not "mountainous". The photo sets make it clear that the actual mountains are a long way away, and the trail itself is pretty flat. In fact it's nearly a fucking road. It looks exactly like the tracks in Forestry Commission plantations in England, which are Sunday afternoon stuff and require artificial obstacles in the form of locked gates and barriers to stop people driving along them. For sure a lot of it may be wet and muddy and have streams flowing down it but that sort of thing is, you know, normal for country walking routes. Heck, it was down the trail that the fucking bus got to where it was. Granted it was towed by a bulldozer rather than driving under its own power but it still got there on its own wheels, it didn't have to be airlifted into place with a Chinook or anything like that. If you can tow a fucking bus all the way down the trail it is not fucking "hard going". Try towing a bus up to the top of Coniston Old Man and see how much luck you have.

It isn't a particularly long way either. Twenty miles odd walking along a track you can get a bus down is not a "long way", though I suppose it might be if you're an American who uses a car to go 50 yards to the shops instead of walking it. You could walk out to the bus on one day, spend the night there, and walk back the next day, and indeed there are reports posted by people who have done exactly that. It's a weekend trip.

One website at least seems to be doing its best to issue its dire warnings in a way that is calculated to make things as bad as possible. Its solution to the difficulty of crossing the river is to do it in the winter when it is easy because everything is frozen up. It doesn't seem to matter much to them that it is bastard fucking cold in the Alaskan winter and so everything else about the walk will be a fuck sight more difficult because simply keeping warm is a huge massive problem. You have to wrap up until you look like the Michelin man and you have to take fuck loads of food and sleeping gear and shit which in turn slows you down so you have to take even more shit for the longer time and spend more nights trying to maintain your warmth while you sleep which further increases your need for food and so on and so on and you'll probably still get hypothermia anyway. Why not do something much simpler and just not bother trying to cross the fucking river at that point? It is widely reported that it is not all that far upstream that the river is not concentrated into a narrow channel, but instead is spread out over a great width so it's a whole lot shallower and slower. Why not cross it there for fuck's sake? Or, going the other way, according to the book there is some kind of manually-operated transporter bridge effort about half a mile downstream (it calls it a "tram", which is a pointlessly fucking stupid thing to call it as it can't possibly bear more than the most tenuous resemblance to an electric bus on rails, but from the other words it sounds like a sort of transporter bridge implemented as a cable car; at any rate, it is something you can use to cross the river without getting your feet wet). Why not use that? Or is it not there any more, in which case why not say so so people don't end up wasting effort looking for it? And anyway you can always turn back if it's too much of a problem. Instructing people to alleviate what is the sole point of difficulty in the entire enterprise by turning the whole of the rest of it into a continuous struggle against hypothermia is not only fucking stupid, its inherent contradictoriness makes a mockery of the website's entire message.

In England we get a lot of bollocks promulgated in popular walking areas like the Lake District about how terribly dangerous it can be and how you will probably die if you don't lug about the weight of enough expensive specialised equipment to cross fucking Siberia whenever you get out of your car. That people have lived and farmed in the Lake District for thousands of years during most of which time most of this supposedly essential equipment didn't even fucking exist seems to escape notice. All I bother with is a coat and a camera and not only am I not dead yet, I haven't even come close to it. Certainly nowhere near as close as I've managed without even going out the fucking door. Granted, in the case in point you'll need to take a bit more than that, but it's not as if that isn't patently bleeding obvious, and beyond that it sounds very much as if these websites are promulgating the same sort of shit.

If they really do think there is a serious need to issue warnings then they need to work a fuck sight harder to make them credible. Providing clear illustration by means of good photographs depicting whatever is supposed to be so dangerous would be a good start. Publishing extensive photographic documentation of something that looks like the Forestry Commission made it and telling people it'll probably kill them is only going to get them laughed at. As for all these people who apparently do get stuck, I can only conclude that they're the kind of pillocks who would get stuck going to the fucking shops if they went on their own, a conclusion further supported by the observation that they must have something wrong with them to spend all that effort going to visit a scrap bus in the first place.


Back to Pigeon's Nest

Be kind to pigeons

Valid HTML 4.01!