The Many Mistakes of Chris McCandless
You can hear the waves crash against the shore less than fifty feet from you. Your prized car, the one that you’ve loved for years now, is stuck in the sand, unable to move. All of the money you didn’t donate to charity, preventing malnutrition in the United States, is burning in front of you, smoke billowing out. You’re ready to embark on your adventure into the wild, into the depths of the Alaskan forests in hopes of finding yourself. Your name is Chris McCandless.
When Chris McCandless left his hometown of Annandale, Virginia, he was extremely unprepared for what he was going to face in the next 112 brutal days in Alaska. In his backpack, he had “little more than a .22 caliber rifle and a 10-pound bag of rice” (Power, 1). He was hoping to discover himself and test to make sure he could live in the Alaskan wilderness with little to nothing, but instead only found himself dead. He died of starvation, which was almost inevitable when he had only 10 pounds of rice for his entire trip, although it cannot be denied that he had planned to leave much earlier, 33 days earlier, in fact, and could not because he was unprepared for the tricky condition of his new environment. Without a map, boots, a compass, more than one set of extra clothes, or many other things that are necessary for proper survival, Chris simply wasn’t ready to live in the wild.
When he walked into the wilderness, Chris found that the Teklanika River wasn’t too much of a struggle to get though. When he tried to leave 79 days later, he had all of his stuff packed up on his back and was “prepared to head out of the wilderness, only to be blocked by the now raging [Teklanika] River”. (Mason, 2) Chris hadn’t taken into account the way that the river worked, with it appearing calm when he entered, but as he tried to exit, he found it unable to be passed. The thing is, if he had been better prepared with a map, he would have walked down towards the braided channels and found an alternative way across. Instead, Chris said that he would wait for the river to go back down, crawled back into his sleeping bag, and eventually died.
Chris didn’t grow up in Alaska, so he had no idea what to properly expect when he got there. He loved to read big adventure books by authors that glamorized places like Alaska, when in reality, the wilderness isn’t always as inviting as it seems. He came with what the books had told him he needed and did no additional research to see if perhaps he should learn a few techniques on how to properly store moose meat and on what to bring on an adventure to The Last Frontier. “[He] came there because there was something about the story, and about Alaska, that drew [him] there.” (Power, 3)
It has since been proven that Chris McCandless died due to consuming some poisonous potato seeds, which he recorded in his journal entry. He had picked up a book along his way to Alaska called Tanaina Plantlore by Priscilla Russel Kari, a book that told him all of the plants in Alaska that were to be found and whether or not they were poisonous. He used that book almost constantly while trying to battle starvation, and he ate only plants and berries to survive. The book did in fact tell him that the potato plant he was eating was not poisonous, but the seeds, in some cases (unspecified) would cause the body to become so weak that it could no longer move, causing the person to starve to death. Although McCandless’s death was not due to the fact that he couldn’t find food, there are still many ways in which he could have saved himself.
The thing is, if McCandless had brought a map or more than 10 pounds of rice, there is a large chance he would still be alive today or at least would have made it out of the wild. The map would have lead him to the braided channels further down in the river, which would have let him cross 33 days earlier and make his way to the side of the road. If he had brought another 5 pounds of rice, he would have had food for approximately another 40 days, and would have probably made it across alive. Being severely unprepared was the downfall of Chris McCandless; if he had only brought one or two more items, there’s a large chance he would be walking with the rest of us on this Earth.
Your name is Chris McCandless. Your body is weak, so weak you can barely move into your sleeping bag. You feel the springs from the mattress dig into your now overly pronounced spine. Your entire body aches and you can’t help but wonder what on earth made you want to come to Alaska.
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