North america map

Chris McCandless´ journey

  • Chris is Born

    Chris is Born
    Chris is born in the small town of Torrance, California where his dad lived with his mother Billie, while still having a separate family and wife living in the same area. These events that Chris later figures out from old family friends when he goes to visit at an older age, seem to have caused Chris´ values of self-reliance and urge for independence from his family name. This can be explained when he later changes his name to Alexander Supertramp along his journey.
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    Movement to Northern Virginia (AKA Washington D.C)

    Chris is born in Torrance, California in February 12, 1968. At that same time Walt was splitting up his time between two households. He has another son with his ex-wife after Chris is born, and eventually divorces her. After his other son is born, Chris´ father is offered a job in Washington, in 1974, so he finalizes the divorce with his ex-wife and moves out there with Billie and Chris.
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    Early Childhood

    In Chris´ early childhood, between the years of 1974 and 1976, he travels across the United States with his family many times. After his move to Washington D.C., for Walt´s job offer at NASA, Chris travels to Virginia, Colorado, the Carolinas, The Great Lakes, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Michigan with both his biological sister Carine, and his half brothers and sisters. Because he was exposed to nature and traveling at such a young age, this could have sparked his interest in living nomadic.
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    Chris Visits with his Grandfather

    When Chris was younger, he also traveled to his Mother´s childhood home. Chris´ grandfather lived in Iron Mountain, Michigan, a small town, and was very similar to Chris. Chris´ grandfather was also very stubborn and liked to dream similar to that of Chris. Both also liked being near wildlife and hated hurting the environment. His grandfather had to hunt to keep his children full but cried when he killed an animal, similar to Chris when he cries for killing the moose in Alaska.
  • Old Rag in the Shenandoah

    Old Rag in the Shenandoah
    Chris goes on his first overnight hiking trip with his father into the Shenandoah to climb Old Rag. It was a three day hike, that Chris and Walt ended up making a yearly tradition throughout Chris´ childhood. Being the first mountain he climbed, Old Rag made a huge impact on Chris in that it was probably his first real, somewhat long-term, living experience in the wild. This climb, probably began his interest in wanting to live in the wilderness secluded from society for a while.
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    Longs Peak in Colorado

    The exact dates are not known, but sometime later in his childhood, Chris and his dad´s other children attempted to climb Longs Peak in Colorado, which was the highest Summit in the Rocky Mountain National Park at 14,256 feet. Chris´ dad didn´t feel like he could continue the climb, so they all turn around, but Chris only does so with reluctance.
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    Summer 1986

    This trip is arguably one of the most significant trips that Chris takes in his lifetime because it completely alters his relationship with his father. When Chris travels to California and hears from friends how his father had another family besides himself, his sister, and his mother he was enraged. He saw his father as a hypocrite for being so hard on his children, when his father lived a far-from-perfect life. Chris was never able to forgive his father unlike authors.
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    First Solo Travel to the West: June-August

    On Chris´ first trip to the west he travels through the Texas plains, New Mexico, Arizona, and the Pacific Coast. He returns two days before he is supposed to start college in Atlanta and is very thin. This trip was significant in that it was one of Chis´ first near-death experiences in that he almost died of dehydration. This should have been a sign to Chris to be less careless on future journies and to be more cautious instead. Obviously he didn´t take it to seriously.
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    Summer of 1989: First Trip to Alaska

    Chris had a plan to go to Guatemala for the summer of 1989, but changed his mind last minute to visit Fairbanks, Alaska where he would eventually die, 3 years later. It was his first trip to the Far North and he instantly fell in love with Alaska´s vast amount of land.This trip, I believe, convinced him to finally decide to return and live off the land like our ancestors because he was so stunned by its beauty and lack of materialism.
  • McCandless Gets a Job on a California Ranch

    McCandless Gets a Job on a California Ranch
    Towards the end of July, McCandless while hitchhiking meets a man, Crazy Ernie, who offers him a job on his ranch in Northern California. Chris stays for a couple of days, but realizes he needs money to help get him to Alaska and Ernie wasn´t paying. He leaves the wrecked house and yard, steals a bike, and rides to Chico where he leaves it. He then goes back to his hitchhiking lifestyle, visiting Red Bluff, Weaverville, and Willow Creek towards the end of July and the beginning of August.
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    Chris Hikes Around the West

    After leaving Lake Mead National Park, with the assistance of boaters who take him to Callville Bay, Chris begins hitchhiking around the West with others who value nature and independence like himself. In the two months after he leaves Lake Mead, he travels to Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Nevada, and the Pacific Crest Trail. Along this journey he comes to enjoy the company of those who value similar aspects in life as himself, and learns to live his life by circumstance and how to escape the law.
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    Chris Hikes up North After Staying with Jan

    After leaving Orick Beach, where he stayed with Jan and her boyfriend, Bob for a while, Chris takes a turn to the North, hiking up the coast. During this late August and early September trek, he visits Pistol River, Coos Bay, Seal Rock, Manzanita, Astoria; Hoquiam, Humptulips, Queets; Forks, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Seattle. This trek, if anything, furthered Chris´ excitement to living alone in Alaska because he had practically been doing so for the past couple of months, and had loved it.
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    Chris Continues to Hitchhike Across the West.

    After traveling North through Seattle and other areas, Chris goes east to the Cascade Mountains, the Colombia River Basin, the Idaho Panhandle, and Montana. This all occurs during September, and it is while he is in Montana, that he meets Wayne Westerburg for the first time, and decides to work on his farm in Carthage at the very end of September to October. It can be predicted that Chris would´ve stayed longer on Westerburg´s farm if Wayne hadn´t had been arrested because Chris liked the area.
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    Chris meets Wayne Westerburg

    In the fall of 1990, Wayne Westerburg picks up Chris in Montana and they instantly get along well. Chris stays with him in Ethridge for a couple of days and leaves for Saco Springs for a few weeks, but comes to Carthage, S.D. to work for Wayne. He was the ¨hardest worker¨ Wayne has doing the jobs others didn´t want, showing his dedication and intelligence with his dream. Carthage is significant because he finds a family there and loves the small-town society which challenges his nomadic views.
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    Chris Meets Jan Burres and Stays for a While

    After Chris leaves Chico and goes back to his hitchhiking lifestyle, he meets Jan Burres and her boyfriend near Arcata, California and rides with them to Orick Beach. He stays for a while and they enjoy his company, Jan having an estranged son near the age of Chris. Chris also builds a strong familial-like relationship with Jan in that he sends her postcards like he does to all of the important people he meets along his journey, while not indulging his parents with that same treatment.
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    Chris in Lake Mead National Park (Nevada)

    After leaving Atlanta, Chris travels to the Lake Mead National Park in Nevada and steers his car off-road to the side of the riverbed. He pitches his tent two miles from the road on the edge of the riverbed, when thunderstorms start to develop over the days. The riverbed rises and water floods causing him to gather his belongings fast and load them in his Datsun. The engine got wet, however, so he runs out the battery trying to start it. He abandons his car seeing it as ridding extra baggage.
  • Chris Hikes Around Lake Mead

    Chris Hikes Around Lake Mead
    Chris abandons his Datsun in the middle of Lake Mead National Park in order to prevent having to become involved with authorities or the rangers that could ask personal questions, possibly alerting his parents of his whereabouts. This shows that Chris has no interest in being found and doesn´t want to associate with his family because of their conflicting beliefs. He hikes around Lake Mead National Park instead, where he suffers from heat stroke and is picked up by boaters who take him to shore.
  • Chris Gets Ticketed Near Willow Creek

    Chris Gets Ticketed Near Willow Creek
    Before Chris met Jan and Bob, he got ticketed for hitchhiking near Willow Creek, California. Chris, strangely, gives the officer his parents´ address to send the ticket to which could have resulted in him being found before he could finish his journey, something he didn´t seem to want. Chris was already exploring other areas, however, by the time his parents hired a private investigator, Peter Kalitka, to find him. This event probably made Chris more cautious with the authority and risk-taking.
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    Chris´ Attempt to Canoe to the Gulf of California

    Chris travels to Topock, Arizona after leaving Carthage and while there, buys an aluminum canoe that he hopes to paddle down the Colorado River to the Gulf of California, across the Mexican border. He crosses the Mexican border succesfully, but gets lost in the immense amount of channels that branch off. His journey is not successful by the fact that he only makes it to the gulf with the help of hunters. Chris is ¨demoralized¨ by the experience and his self-assurance and confidence deteriorate.
  • Chris arrives at El Golfo de Santa Clara

    Chris arrives at El Golfo de Santa Clara
    After many months of traveling to make it to the Gulf in his canoe, he finally arrives at his destination with the assistance of duck hunters. At this place he learns to relax for a while after his long journey and to contemplate his new surroundings. He stays at the Gulf for a few weeks until he begins paddling again and encounters a dangerous storm, prompting him to desert his canoe and travel back across the border to the United States.
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    Chris and El Golfo de Santa Clara

    Chris arrives at El Golfo in December. His first few days are uneventful, Chris setting up camp, moving into a cave when the winds got too strong. He resumes paddling around the second week of January where he travels South, but encounters heavy waves and wind that bring him out to sea. This experience makes Alex realize he wants to go back to the U.S., so he beaches his canoe five days after, walking north with little food which later convinces him he can survive in Alaska with similar rations.
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    Chris Travels the Southwest

    After returning to America, Chris hitchhikes around the Southwest to Houston and the Pacific Coast. He learns a valuable lesson from this journey: to bury his money. Because Chris was traveling a lot and sleeping in conditions near some unkind people, he learned to hide his money underground, so that no one would steal that or other belongings he needed on his journey to Alaska.He also learns that it isn´t easy to conform to the ways of society after living away from it for long periods of time.
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    Travels Around the West May-September 1991

    Because Chris stopped recording a journal and stopped taking photographs of this time, there is only a small amount of information on his whereabouts during the spring and early fall of 1991. He leaves Las Vegas in May and spends July and August in Oregon. He disliked Oregon because it was foggy and rainy. He then spends September in California and goes back into the desert to explore.
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    Bullhead City: October-December

    McCandless stays in Bullhead City for two months, surprisingly because it was full of malls and suburbs, and twentieth century. Strangely Chris enjoys the area which is very significant because he even suggests the possibility of someday settling down permanently there, a belief that contradicts all of his values of independence from society. He lives a semi-normal life by getting a job and opening a savings account, even though he dislikes the materialism of money.
  • Chris at the U.S. Border

    Chris at the U.S. Border
    While attempting to make it back to America from El Golfo de Santa Clara, Chris was caught by immigration authorities and questioned because he tried to slip into the country without an ID. He loses his handgun but is set free into America after creating a made-up story.
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    The Slabs

    Chris decides to go live with Jan at The Slabs which are an abandoned army base full of a society of misfits: the poor, exiled, unemployed, retired. A young girl, Tracy, takes interest in Chris but he rejects her advances showing he has a respect for women and morality, when he could´ve easily taken advantage of the girl. He realizes in this society that he does enjoy some personal company, but that there is a balance between the two.
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    Salton City and Anza-Borrego Desert/Oh-my-god hot springs

    Chris leaves The Slabs and hikes into the Anza-Borrego to set up camp. Chris would hike to Salton City when he was in need of supplies which was how he met Ron Franz.Ron Franz becomes close friends with Chris, who ignores Ron´s life advice and instead educates the elder on how he should be living. Chris also realizes he doesn´t want to be part of a family, or is not yet ready to be held back by one, when Ron offers to adopt him and Chris puts it off, showing Chris´ determination for Alaska.
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    Carthage: March-April 1992

    Alex returns to Carthage to work for a few weeks to get some money to prepare for the wilderness of Alaska. He promises to come back and assist with the autumn harvest but dies before he can fulfill it. McCandless while there worked extra hours doing jobs others didn´t want to do which shows his high work ethic probably partly because of his privileged background. He decided to leave in April because he was eager to live off of the wilderness for a time, and to not get stuck in the winter.
  • Liard River Hotsprings

    Liard River Hotsprings
    At Liard River Hotsprings, Chris meets Gaylord Stuckey, who normally doesn´t respond to hitchhikers, but makes an exception for Chris. Stuckey delivered motor homes and enjoyed the company of Chris very much so claiming Chris to be ¨not a typical hitchhiker¨. Stuckey attempts to persuade Chris to call his parents before departing on the Stampede Trail, but Chris doesn´t listen because he follows his own rules of living, and getting along with his parents just wasn´t one of his obligations.
  • Jim Gallien Takes Chris to Stampede Trail

    Jim Gallien Takes Chris to Stampede Trail
    Jim Gallien meets Chris outside of Fairbanks, Alaska and picks him up in his Ford. Chris tells Gallien he wants to live off the wilderness and Gallien tries to change his mind by telling him that hunting is difficult. Chris won´t listen showing his determination and eagerness to live in the wild. Gallien offers to go get him supplies because he is so thin and doesn´t have much in his bag, but Chris refuses. He takes Chris the first few miles of the stampede trail and is the last person he sees.
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    Chris Attempts to Leave the Stampede Trail

    Chris realizes after reading texts from some of the last books he reads that he doesn´t want to live alone in the wilderness anymore and actually enjoys human companionship. The irony is that the moment he realizes he doesn´t like being alone is the moment that leads to his death by himself. When he decides to leave the bus, the Teklanika river had overflowed from rain and he didn´t see a safe way out. He decides to wait it out but dies before he can do so.
  • Chris Dies

    Chris Dies
    After eating poisonous potato seeds covered in mold, Chris dies from starvation because the mold inhibits his body from turning the food into actual energy his body can consume. Chris dies alone in the bus, seeming peaceful in the last photo he took of himself. Chris didn´t die of stupidity because at the time he was in the wild, it was unknown that the potato seeds were poisonous, and the mold wasn´t visible to Chris´ eye. When he dies, he finally decides to appreciate life.