The story of the man who sought adventure so badly he died from it

by Roger Kryson

Ever wondered if it was possible for someone to be so adventure-seeking as to die from it?

Chris McCandless arguably lived so hard that he died from it.

Christopher McCandless was an upper-middle class kid who just graduated from college with a 3.72 GPA and received a whopping $40,000 graduation gift.

His parents had dreams of him going to a fine graduate school, and so did he until one day something clicked: he wasn’t living.

He told his parents: “I think I’m going to disappear for a while.”

The next day, McCandless drove his old Datsun car as far West as it would go before it broke down in a flash flood.

He abandoned the car in the middle of a desert, and set off on foot, leaving practically everything including $4.63, a guitar, a saucepan, and 25-pound bag of rice.

He also left a note that read: “This piece of sh*t has been abandoned. Whoever can get it out of here can have it.”

Park rangers ended up claiming the car and it became an undercover cop car for drug busts.

For the rest of his young life, McCandless would live amongst the homeless, hitch-hiking, and working short-term labor jobs in different states.

Each year he became more and more curious, and more daring – ultimately leading to his downfall.

One day, McCandless decided to go canoeing.

McCandless had begun his journey by canoe at the end of October, and it was now the first week in January. At this time he is caught in a violent storm which sweeps his little canoe out to open waters, and he barely escapes with his life.

This close call convinced McCandless to abandon his canoe and head back north.

Leaving the boat southeast of El Golfo de Santa Clara, he began walking north along the beach, and was caught by immigration officials at the United States border.

He was briefly incarcerated.

He had no I.D., and told border officials his name was Alexander Supertramp.

He was released – but the legend of Alexander Supertramp had been born.

In April, the now 24-year old set out to take on the Alaskan wilderness.

He hitched a ride from a man named Jim Gallen, who urged him not to tread into the dangerous terrain of Alaska upon hearing his plan.

McCandless was convinced he could survive, and set off on foot into the wilderness.

On May 1, 1992, after crossing the Teklanika River, knee-deep at the time, Alex arrived at an abandoned bus sitting on the trail.

His journal entry for that date simply states, “Magic Bus Day!”

This would be the same bus in which he would later take the famous picture of himself just days before starving to death:

Self-portrait of McCandless found undeveloped in his camera after his death.

McCandless struggled to gather food in the Alaskan wilderness.

One day, he managed to kill a moose with a rifle he brought, but couldn’t properly store the meat. He tried storing it under the snow, but after three days the meat was full of maggots.

McCandless’ kind soul shared a moment of regret, despite starving, saying: “I now wish I never shot the moose.”

For the next few weeks, McCandless survived on plants and sticks alone. It is believed he tried leaving the wilderness, but hurt his shoulder while walking across a dangerous rapid of water. He became trapped.

McCandless left this note in hope that someone passing by would find him.

McCandless died at 24 on August 18th, 1992, after 112 days in the Alaskan wilderness.

He lived for years traveling across the States, hitch-hiking and living amongst the homeless all by choice.

His fatal day came from starvation after nearly 4 months of surviving in the dangerous Alaskan wilderness.

If anybody has ever died from living too hard, it was Christopher McCandless.

When his body was discovered, a single note read:

“I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!”

McCandless’ final written journal entry, noted as “Day 107”, simply read, “Beautiful Blue Berries.”

The days 108 through 113 contained no words and were marked with only slashes.

On September 6, 1992, a hunter who was looking for shelter for the night came upon the converted bus McCandless had been staying in.

Upon entering, he smelled what he thought was rotting food and discovered “a lump” in a sleeping bag.

The hunter quickly radioed police, who arrived the following day. They found McCandless’ decomposing body in the sleeping bag. He had died of starvation the previous month.

The biographical book Into the Wild (1997) was inspired by McCandless’ story and travels. The book was subsequently adapted into a 2007 film directed by Sean Penn, with Emile Hirsch portraying McCandless.


Kryson is a lawyer with both an M.S. in Psychology and a Bachelors in Criminal Justice.

According to him, some of his best, and worst, moments were made in the courtroom.

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