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A book entitled Into the Wild, was sent to Mike by a member of the public whilst he was on the isle of Taransay during 2000. It recounts the story of a young man who left behind his comfortable, conventional life and travelled North America, arriving in Alaska in spring 1992. He went alone into the wilderness and his body was found several months later. As soon as Mike had read the book he knew that he would go and retrace the same route and try to find out just what happened to the young man, Christopher McCandless.

Mike at the bus in which McCandless died. On Tuesday 28 April 1992, Christopher McCandless set off to walk the Stampede Trail a journey from which he was not to return. A group of hunters found his decomposing body deep in the Alaskan wilderness 112 days later, in September 1992. His remains weighed just 67 pounds. Along with his body his diary was found, a document which formed the basis for the book Mike was sent. There began at once a task to unravel the last months of this highly intelligent yet unconventional young man who met his death whilst, perhaps, seeking an alternative life.

Mike left the same town on the same week of the year as McCandless had, but did so nine years later. They both set off alone, without radio and followed the Stampede Trail, which winds westwards from the main north-south highway in central Alaska before disappearing into the wilderness. Initially the land is low level and undulating. Scattered thin forests offer some protection against the piercing icy winds until you reach the hills. The hills then climb upward towards the slopes of the McKinley Range with their awesome snow covered peaks. Raging opaque rivers thunder through the valleys and moose and caribou wander the land. Brown and black bears as well as wolves are here in number. This is a formidable land and one to be respected.

Alaska The Stampede Trail was blazed in the 1930s by an Alaskan miner, Earl Pilgrim. In 1961 a construction company built a road along it for the haulage of ore. To house the workmen on the project, three junked buses were modified with stoves and beds, and dragged out to various stages along the route.

Alaska In 1963, the project was terminated and two of the buses were recovered. The third bus was left as a retreat for hunting parties. The road was never completed and what was built has since been washed away. It is, once again, just a simple trail.

It was in the remaining bus that McCandless sought shelter and eventually perished.

Mike's trip was a success and he reached the location where McCandless died. The trip was filmed for TV but there is still a further challenge which may one day be undertaken. Between leaving the town of Healy and McCandless' body being discovered was a period of 112 days (although he probably died quite sometime before its discovery).

Mike has compiled a comprehensive TV proposal covering how this might be attempted. For further details, please contact Mike via the Contact Page.

The book that inspired me to undertake this trip was called 'Into the Wild', written by Jon Krakauer. It is available at most good bookshops and online retailers such as www.amazon.co.uk.

This trip was generously sponsored by

Into the Wild

Click here to view the Alaska photo gallery!

(C) Mike Laird 2024