Jim Gallien had driven four miles out of Fairbanks when he spotted the hitchhiker standing in the snow beside the road, thumb raising high, shivering in the gray Alaskan dawn. He didn't appear to be very old: eighteen, maybe nineteen at the most. A rifle protruded from the young man's backpack, but he looked friendly enough. Gallien steered his truck onto the shoulder and told the kid to climb in. The hitchhiker swung his pack into the bed of the Ford and introduced himself as Alex. "Alex?" Gallien responded, fishing for a last name. "Just Alex," the young man replied, pointedly rejecting the bait. He explained that he wanted a ride as far as the edge of Denali National Park, where he intended to walk deep into the bush and "live off the land for a few months." "People from the Outside," reports Gallien in a slow, sonorous drawl, "they'll pick up a copy of Alaska magazine, thumb through it, thinking, " Hey, I'm going to get on up there, live off the land, go claim me a piece of the good life. But when they get here wnd actually head out into the bush-- well, it isn't like the magazines make it out to be. The rivers are big and fast, The mosquitoes eat you alive. It was a two hour drive from Fairbanks to the edge of Denali Park. The more they talked, the less Alex struck Gallien as a nutcase. He was congenial and seemed well educated. Still, Gallien was concerned. Alex admitted that the only food in his pack was a ten pound bag of rice. His gear seemed exceedingly minimal for the harsh conditions of the interior. Alex's cheap leather hiking boots were neither waterproof nor well insulated. His rifle was only .22 caliber, a bore too small to rely on if he expected to kill large animals like moose and caribou. Gallien asked whether he had a hunting license.
"Hell, no," Alex scoffed. "How I feed myself is none of the government's business. "There was must no talking the guy out of it," Gallien remembered. "He...
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