by Phillip Manning ~ July 1st, 2013
The events leading up to Christopher McCandless’ death were compiled in the book Into the Wild, which was later made into a motion picture. Since the release of the book and movie, many have trekked down the twenty miles of the Stampede Trail to visit the former Fairbanks city bus where McCandless died.
A trio of hikers was returning from their visit to the bus, but an ankle injury to one hiker as well as high waters on the Teklanika (TEK-la-NEE-ka) River prevented them from making the return trip. The group was stranded, and had been out of food for two days before rescue arrived. Jon Pennell, spokesman for the U-S Army, explains the fortunate coincidence that led to the rescue by an Army Chinook helicopter.
“They were out on just a routine mission out to the west of Healy, and as they were flying over the Stampeded Trail area the hikers managed to signal them with a mirror and other signal devices.”
The helicopter landed and the hikers explained their predicament. After making sure the situation was not life threatening, the Chinook returned to base for fuel, then came back and lifted the stranded hikers to their vehicle. This is the second recent rescue of hikers from the area of the bus. Three German hikers were rescued by Alaska State Troopers on May 27th.
Jon Pennell says that this scenario highlights the need for preparation:
“If they’d had something as simple as a satellite phone or an emergency locator beacon, then they wouldn’t be taking so much of a chance, but to go out there with just a signal mirror…it’s incredibly lucky that they were able to get the pilot’s attention.”