Into The Wild


Chapter 4 to Chapter 5

Chapter 4 Summary

In October 1990, a National Park Service ranger discovers McCandless’s yellow Datsun underneath a tarpaulin near Lake Mead, Nevada. It is apparent that the car was damaged in a flash flood, but the license plates have been removed and there is no way to identify the car’s owner. The Park Service runs some checks but discovers nothing, and they keep the Datsun to use in undercover narcotics work.

From McCandless’s journal, Krakauer is able to reconstruct what happened. Krakauer surmises that McCandless arrived at Lake Mead on July 6 and drove his car through a dry riverbed in spite of posted warnings against off-road driving. He pitched his tent far out in the desert at the edge of a wash. A couple of days later, a hard rain came in and flooded the wash unexpectedly. McCandless was able to grab his tent and backpack, but the car was drenched. Because the engine was wet, McCandless couldn’t get the car started and he ended up draining the battery. Finally, he stripped the license plates and buried them with his rifle. In his journal, McCandless proudly reports that he also put all of his cash in a pile and burned it. He then abandoned the car and set out on foot, hiking around Lake Mead. He was soon overcome with heatstroke and had to flag down some boaters to catch a ride to the marina.

Over the next two months, McCandless hitchhiked around the West, constantly in motion. His longest stop was at a ranch in northern California toward the end of July, where he worked for eleven days before realizing that he wasn’t going to be paid. Sixty miles south of Oregon on Highway 101, he was spotted by Jan Burres and her boyfriend Bob, a pair of drifters. Driving along, they noticed McCandless gathering berries by the roadside and picked him up to offer him a meal. They took an instant liking to McCandless, and he camped with them for a week in Orick Beach. Jan Burres reports that she and Bob “thought the world of him” and that he “made a point of staying in touch” with them...

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