Woman Drowns in Alaska Near McCandless's Magic Bus

'Into The Wild' fan from Switzerland swept into Teklanika River while attempting to reach McCandless's death place
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'Into The Wild' fan from Switzerland swept into Teklanika River while attempting to reach McCandless's death place

14 years after the book and three years after the movie Into The Wild, wilderness maverick Christopher McCandless still inspires devotees to attempt to follow in his footsteps up the Stampede Trail to his notorious "magic bus"—the place where he wintered and starved to death. Several have needed rescue, and one died on Saturday: Claire Jane Ackermann, a 29-year-old from Switzerland, drowned while attempting to cross the Teklanika, the same river that vexed and trapped McCandless on the edges of Alaska's Denali National Park.

Ackermann and a 27-year-old French man attempted to cross the river by tying onto a rope attached to trees and branches. When they were swept under by the swollen river, the Frenchman was able to cut himself free and get to the bank, where he cut Ackermann free. She floated for about a half mile downstream before he could pull her to shore. By the time he did, she was unresponsive.

The unidentified Frenchman denied going to the bus after being rescued by Alaska state troopers, but locals note there's little other reason to visit the Stampede Trail. Locals say visits to the discarded Fairbanks city bus where McCandless squatted for an Alaska winter increased after the release of the film.

Headed out to the bus? Our advice is don't—it's dangerous, tired, and the cool parts of Denali are within spitting distance. But if you must, brush up on crossing swollen rivers right here.

—Ted Alvarez

via Fairbanks Daily News-Miner