The bus made famous by Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction book, “Into the Wild”, and the 2007 movie of the same name was removed from the Alaskan wilderness this week via helicopter.
On Thursday, Alaska Army National Guard soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, executed an extraction mission to remove “Bus 142” from its position on the Stampede Trail using a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
“Bus 142” is a 1946 International Harvester K-5 that was parked near Denali National Park. The K-5 had a steel chassis and 9,300-pound payload capacity when new. “Bus 142” was originally owned by the Yutan Construction Company and was used to transport construction crews from Fairbanks to the Stampede Trail during a road upgrades project in 1960 and 1961.
Over the years, the bus’s engine was removed and it was towed using two Caterpillar D8 bulldozers but eventually gained a broken axle. Crews installed a wood-burning stove and beds, using it for shelter. Later in its life, the K-5 became a shelter for trappers and hunters.
After graduating from Emory University in 1990, Chris McCandless had become a wanderer. In April 1992 he began a histhchiking journey in South Dakota that would lead him to Alaska. In May he set up camp at “Bus 142” where he stayed for two months before attempting to find a way out of the wilderness. He was unable to do so and returned to the K-5.
The journal that McCandless kept during his travels became source material for “Into the Wild”. The journal chronicles 112 days of entires with the last week’s worth describing how McCandless is weak, hungry, and in need of assistance.
“Into the Wild” featured an image of the bus in its poster, which was distributed to movie theaters nationwide.Movie poster courtesy of Paramount Vantage
In September 1992, McCandless was found dead in this sleeping bag by a group of hunters who sought refuge in the bus during an excision.
The 1996 non-fiction book is an expanded form of the 9,000-word article Krakauer wrote about the journey of McCandless titled “Death of an Innocent”, which appeared in “Outside” magazine in January 1993.
After the publication of the article and novel, and especially after the release of the movie, the bus became a tourist attraction. Its location along the Stampede Trail in the Denali Borough of Alaska, near Healy, had been the site of numerous emergency rescues over the years.
The over 47-mile trail began as a mining road in 1903 and for years was commonly used for winter sports recreation. Some of the first eight miles is paved or gravel road but then the trail descends into pathways only reachable by foot or ATV.
The bus will be stored at a secure site with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources considers options for its permanent resting place.