The Magic Bus

9 am.  Still dark.  Still freezing cold.  Today is the day CW is going to take me out to see the bus.  He has an extra snow mobile for me to ride.  His house is at the 4 mile mark on the stampede trail.  He bought the house the year Chris McCandless walked off the grid.  He didn’t see him but Chris had to walk past his house.

CW, master guide, had agreed to take me out to the bus.  He doesn’t do this all the time.  His passion is hunting so he takes people out on hunting trips in the surrounding mountains.  CW was the one who escorted Sean Penn and crew out to the bus and recommended a site, for filming, that was similar in terrain to the actual bus site where Chris had died.  Over the years he’s had a change of heart about the people who want to see the bus.  His views have softened and I think he understands peoples compulsions for wanting to make the trip.  But he says, “don’t do it the same way he did it….,”  What he was saying is that Alaska can be a dangerous place for ill-prepared people and for seasoned veterans.  I’m glad I met him.  Oh, and I met his mom last friday.  She’s the lady in the car that stopped and looked at me like I was crazy for being out here this time of year.

I think I did ok for a first time snow mobile rider.  There were a couple of inclines where CW had stopped to give me advice and to make sure I made it over without the snowmobile falling on top of me.

The picture above is me on the snow mobile on the Savage river.  I took my mitts off to pull my scarf over my frozen face.  The tundra was frozen solid.  The snowmobile took a beating.  In the summertime we would of made the trip on an ATV because the tundra would have been spongy and swarming with mosquitoes.

CW carries limb clippers, or whatever they’re called, to maintain the trail.  I helped too by taking down a few branches with my head.  I’m glad I had  eye protection.  I almost wiped out a few times too.  Never stick your leg out when you feel like you’re going to flip the snow mobile.  The first time, I almost dislocated my leg.

My snowmobile didn’t have reverse so the two times I strayed from the path, I had to hop off and pull the front of the snow mobile into the correct line.

View from the trail to the bus.  The sun is up!

The sun won’t get much higher than this.

It took us about 2 hours to get to the bus.  I definitely would have gotten lost if I had tried this on my own and 6 days would not have been enough time to get here on foot.  There were so many sled dog trails.  Click on the bus picture to see a google map areal view of the bus.

I was sad to see the bus in this condition.  Vandals and opportunists had damaged and striped the bus of artifacts to sell on ebay or to display as trophies.  CW commented how the steering wheel had disappeared since the last time he was here.  The bus is slowly being disassembled.  Soon there won’t be anything left.  I thought about taking something, but it just felt wrong.  I was content with the pictures and memories.  So I left a few words in the journal left behind by Chris’s sister.  Go there sometime and read my entry if you can read my scribble.  It’s hard to write with bare hands in sub freezing weather.  I bought a special pen akin to the space pen at Staples.  It’s designed to write in extreme climates.

A dead rat.

A suitcase filled with books, journals, and Bible.

Journal entry by Carine McCandless.

pastedGraphic_12.pdfI feel like I need a tetanus shot.

Rice and whisky!  Only as a last resort.  I think I would nibble on my finger before I eat anything here.

This is Mike.  He  owns Earthsong Lodge.  for $1300 a day you can learn to dogsled and stay at the lodge for the night.

We finally got back to the starting point  and we ended the trip with a cup of hot chocolate with his son and mom.  Email me if you want CW’s contact info.

My last night in Healy.  This is the view from the inside of my rental car at the camp site.  Sleeping in the car was challenging.  I slept in so many different positions.  I think I can be a contortionist.

After I took this picture, I  strategically contorted by body around the gear shift and pulled my hood around my head.  A few minutes later I could hear someone sneaking up to the car.  Luckily I had locked all the doors and my knife was within reach.

My back hurts.

Goodbye Healy!