Into the Wild Bus Has Been Repurposed

It's now a museum exhibit in Alaska, and 'Outside' magazine thinks it works
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2024 10:00 AM CST
Into the Wild Bus Has a New Purpose Now
The bus in 2006, when it was still in the Alaska wilderness.   (AP Photo/Jillian Rogers, File)

Most know it as the Into the Wild bus—the abandoned vehicle in the Alaskan wilderness that served as the shelter for Christopher McCandless before the 24-year-old died in 1992. Those a bit more familiar with the story, made famous in a book and movie, might know it as Bus 142, the number emblazoned upon it from its former life as a city bus in Fairbanks. At Outside magazine, Eva Holland explores the bus—which was airlifted out of the wilderness by state officials in 2020—in its new incarnation: as a museum exhibit not only about McCandless and the bus, but about Alaska itself. She details the delicate balance curators at the University of Alaska Museum of the North struck as they sought to restore the bus and simultaneously preserve it in its most well-known iteration: as a destination for hikers who made pilgrimages to the site.

And does it all work? Yes, writes Holland, but maybe not in the way she expected. She likens stepping into the bus like stepping into a church, but instead of being awed by statues or stained glass, she was awed by the countless messages scrawled all over the bus over the years. "The sheer volume of scribbles, and the earnestness of what they expressed, were overwhelming," she writes. ("Live before you die" is one she cites.) "I was deeply, unexpectedly moved." She adds that she never understood McCandless' quest for extreme solitude until reading his sister's book about their abusive childhood home. "If reading Carine's book had helped me understand Chris, seeing the bus for myself helped me understand the people who'd followed him down the Stampede Trail." Read the full story. (McCandless may have missed his escape window by only a day or two.)

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