The Magic Bus, a humble vehicle tucked away in the Alaskan wilderness, might not seem like much at first glance. Yet, it holds a remarkable story that has captured the imagination of countless wanderers and adventure-seekers, thanks in large part to Chris McCandless and the compelling book and movie “Into the Wild.”
Located just off the Stampede Trail at the northern tip of Denali National Park, this bus was once part of the Yutan Construction Company’s fleet, providing transportation and shelter for workers in the early 1960s. Over time, it was abandoned and transformed into a refuge for hunters, trappers, and curious visitors.
The trail is named after the Stampede Mines, which were established in the area in the early 20th century.The trail is located in the wilderness north of Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. It’s not a formal maintained hiking trail but more of a rough, unpaved road or path, often used by hunters, trappers, and individuals seeking solitude in the wilderness. This place is so remote that the film crew had to shoot their Alaska scenes more than 80KM south of the Bus in a small town called Cantwell.
The bus gained worldwide recognition when the story of Chris McCandless, who spent the summer of 1992 living in it, came to light. McCandless himself affectionately named it the “Magic Bus.” His journey, documented in a 1993 magazine article, later evolved into the best-selling book and critically acclaimed film, “Into the Wild.”
For those with a sense of wanderlust and a thirst for adventure, the Magic Bus had become a symbol of fascination, drawing them to learn more about its history and its remote location within one of America’s most pristine national parks.
However, this fascination has had unintended consequences. Situated in an isolated corner of Denali National Park, between Anchorage and the Gates of the Arctic, reaching the Magic Bus is no ordinary tourist endeavor. Tragically, the bus became a destination for some, leading to two fatal incidents in 2010 and 2019.
In 2020, recognizing the hazards it posed, authorities decided to airlift the bus out of the park, putting an end to its life as a remote, off-the-grid shelter.
But what happened to the Magic Bus after its evacuation?
The Magic Bus has found a new home in Alaska, where it will be featured at the Museum of the North in Fairbanks. However, it will take several years of careful restoration before visitors can see bus 142 up close and personal.
If you’re eager to catch a glimpse of the ongoing restoration efforts, the museum is accepting donations to support the project. Additionally, there’s a dedicated app for Mac and PC users that offers a virtual tour of the bus, which offers some interesting details. On this image, taken from the app you can see some of the graffiti left by visitors over the years. I supect ‘Leo Supertramp’ was an homage to ‘Alexander Supertramp’ a pseudonym sometimes used by McCandless as he travelled.
When can we see it for real?
There are hopes we can get to see the bus in the summer of 2024. Back in 2022 the musuem gained a $500,000 federal grant from the National Park Service and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to help the University of Alaska Museum of the North prepare Bus 142 for public exhibition during the summer of 2024. Preservation efforts continue with the bus taken off public view from October this year until they are able to raise the necessary funds to create the public exhibition on the UAF campus, behind the museum. You can help speed up the process with any donations you can spare.
Into the Wild – the Story of Chris McCandless
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ve already read or watched “Into the Wild.” If not, you’re in for a treat. “Into the Wild” is the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man from a well-to-do family who, after graduating from college, decided to embark on an epic adventure into the Alaskan wilderness. McCandless gave away his savings, abandoned his possessions, and adopted the alias Alexander Supertramp. His journey was driven by a desire for a life of simplicity, self-discovery, and a rejection of societal norms. The book and subsequent movie, both titled “Into the Wild,” chronicle his incredible journey, the people he meets along the way, and the harsh realities of surviving in the wild. It’s a tale of self-discovery, adventure, and the pursuit of a deeper connection with nature. However, the story also serves as a cautionary tale about the unforgiving nature of the Alaskan wilderness and the importance of preparedness when exploring such remote and challenging environments.