Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cooperating Rain

Would you believe it ? The time slot I decided to get in my 10-miler today fit nicely into a break in the torrential rain we have been having for the last day. Forecasts are calling for an additional 1.5 to 2 inches of rain this afternoon, but someone up above was nice enough to give me enough non-rain time to get in a quick 10.

Some friends were planning to head up to Bear Mountain State Park to check out portions of the North Face Endurance Challenge course. Their plan is to at least run the initial 5.3 miles of the course, which North Face describes as "likely the most difficult section of the course. After a 2 mile warm up, this leg quickly turns vertical. There is an aggressive climb up the Yellow Trail, then a descent before climbing up The Timp Trail." I can't wait to hear how that went.

Last night I watched a movie that I waiting to come out on DVD, Into the Wild. I had read the book written by Jon Krakauer some time ago, and also know all about the story of Christopher McCandless (a/k/a Alexander Supertramp) which I first read about in an article printed in Outside Magazine in 1993. McCandless abandons his life of comfort, giving the remainder of his savings to charity, to pursue the freedom of life on the road, and ultimately, in the wild of the Alaskan wilderness. Men's Journal recently printed "The Cult of Christopher McCandless". The article touches on how, fifteen years after the 24-year-old walked into the Alaskan wild, the site of his death has become a shrine, and asks the question, as Hollywood weighs in with a portrait of the young man as a saintlike visionary, has the truth of McCandless's journey and death been lost? Many say that while McCandless was bright and intelligent young man, it was a series of small mistakes that compounded in disaster that caused his ultimate demise. Of course, the movies always paint a picture that aims to be "sale-worthy", often distorting the actual truth and facts in an effort to produce a product that is most appealing to audiences.

After hiking the Stampede Trail, McCandless found an abandoned bus used as a hunting shelter parked on an overgrown section of the trail near Denali National Park and began his attempt to live off the land. He had a 10-pound bag of rice, a Remington semi-automatic rifle, a book of local plant life, several other books, and some camping equipment. He assumed that he could forage for plant food and hunt game. Despite his inexperience as a hunter, McCandless successfully poached some small game such as porcupines and birds. Once he successfully killed a moose; despite this success he failed to preserve the meat, rather than thinly slicing and air-drying the meat of the moose, as is usually done in the Alaskan bush, he unsuccessfully attempted to preserve it by smoking it.

His journal contains entries covering a total of 189 days. These entries range from ecstatic to grim with McCandless's changing fortunes. In July, after living successfully in the bus for several months, he decided to leave, but found the trail back blocked by the Teklanika River, which was then considerably higher than when he had crossed it in April.

On September 6, 2002, two hikers and a group of moose hunters found this note on the door of the bus:

"S.O.S. I need your help. I am injured, near death, and too weak to hike out of here. I am all alone, this is no joke. In the name of God, please remain to save me. I am out collecting berries close by and shall return this evening. Thank you, Chris McCandless. August?"

On August 12 he wrote what are assumed to be his final words in his journal "Beautiful Blueberries" He tore the final page from Louis L'Amour's memoir, Education of a Wandering Man with the words:

"Death's a fierce meadowlark but to die having made Something more equal to centuries Than muscle and bone, is mostly to shed weakness. The mountains are dead stone, the people Admire or hate their stature, their insolent quietness, The mountains are not softened or troubled And a few dead men's thoughts have the same temper."

On the other side of the page, McCandless added,

His body was found in his sleeping bag inside the bus, weighing just 67 pounds. He had been dead for more than two weeks. His official cause of death was starvation.

The movie was well done and riveting. A little long (at 148 minutes), but certainly worth a look.


  1. Hi Anthony, very nice you tucked in that 10 miles between the rains. And, thanks for sharing/summarizing that story, very interesting...

  2. I wanted to see the movie, and I've heard the story. I have mixed feelings about the story, because I don't think the movie should glorify his death; hopefully, it didn't.

    Nice job getting the 10 miler done between showers!

  3. hi anthony! love the write-up about "into the wild!" read the book years ago, but never got around to watching the movie. my wife tried to get me a copy from blockbuster this weekend - but all copies were out :(
    we met up w/staci after the 15k yesterday.
    looking forward to wurtsboro this weekend!

  4. I have strong feelings after reading the book, and they weren't in favor of Chris M. I wondered if my thoughts were clouded by being a parent and seeing how selfish and stupid he was to do that to the people he loved.

    By the way, I just tagged you. Hope you don't mind.