Alaska 2013


As I listened to our (excellent) Denali guide, I thought of the movie Into the Wild and book by the same name, and I promised to myself to find out where, in the vastness of the state, that story took place. As if on cue, the guide pointed in the direction of an area, just outside the park, where Chris McCandless spent his last days. The bus is still there, he told us, but was moved to the near side of the river for the safety of curious visitors. The bus was originally a bad weather refuge for Forest Service personnel and had been abandoned by the time McCandless happened on it.

Sean Penn, the director, shot the Alaska part of the film on location with local help, especially the Park Service. What an exciting time for this small village. The locals speak fondly of Sean Penn and his staff.

The book's author is Jon Krakauer, who also wrote Into Thin Air, the fascinating account of the disastrous 1996 Everest expedition in which he participated.


So much of Alaska has entered American lore. On the train to Denali we saw the (totally unremarkable) town that became the Cicely of Northern Exposure fame. I checked out the series again--fun for a taste of the varied characters and strong women who populate Alaska. My one reservation was that Alaska tends to be overcast and wet in summer, quite unlike the sunny days of the early episodes.

A beautiful one-hour National Geographic piece, Extreme Alaska/Denali National Park, tells of the climate zones and the different challenges they present to wildlife as well as humans. It is available for instant view on Netflix.