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Bus made famous in Into the Wild removed after putting tourists at risk

Visitors trying to reach the Alaska wilderness spot where Christopher McCandless died have been drawn to the bus, with some requiring rescue.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
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The dilapidated bus where Christopher McCandless died was removed this week.

Video screenshot by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

The bus made famous by Jon Krakauer's nonfiction book, Into the Wild, and the 2007 movie of the same name, was removed from Alaska's Stampede Trail this week for public safety reasons. The bus was airlifted out of the Healy, Alaska wilderness using a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, according to a Facebook post from the Alaska National Guard.

Alaska Guardsmen airlift "Into the Wild" bus This afternoon, Alaska Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment executed an extraction mission via a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over Healy, Alaska. As part of a combined effort with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the Guardsmen rigged and airlifted “Bus 142,” an historic icon from book and film, “Into the Wild,” out of its location on Stampede Road in light of public safety concerns. The bus will be stored at a secure site while the DNR considers all options and alternatives for its permanent disposition. (Alaska Army National Guard courtesy video by UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief, Staff Sgt. Sonny Cooper)

Posted by Alaska National Guard on Thursday, June 18, 2020

Krakauer's 1996 book tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, who donated his life savings to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska at age 24. Unable to get back to civilization, he took refuge in an abandoned 1946 bus that once had been used as shelter by road workers, but died of starvation after more than 100 days. Numerous travelers who read the book or saw the movie later tried to reach the bus, with some needing rescue, and one woman from Belarus dying in the attempt.

"We encourage people to enjoy Alaska's wild areas safely, and we understand the hold this bus has had on the popular imagination," Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige said in a statement. "However, this is an abandoned and deteriorating vehicle that was requiring dangerous and costly rescue efforts. More importantly, it was costing some visitors their lives."

The Alaska Army National Guard moved the bus as part of a training mission "at no cost to the public or additional cost to the state," Feige said. The statement says the crew also ensured the safety of a suitcase with sentimental value to the McCandless family. A 2003 article in Nidus, a publication by University of Pittsburgh MFA students, reports that McCandless' mother left the suitcase filled with survival gear, with visitors adding to and taking from it over the years. The bus will be stored at a secure site until a decision is made about its future.