Christopher Johnson McCandless was born on February 12, 1968. He grew up in Annandale, Virginia, located in the affluent Fairfax County. His father, Walt McCandless, worked as an antenna specialist for NASA . His mother, Wilhelmina "Billie", was his father's secretary, and later helped Walt establish and run a successful consulting company in Annandale.
He was unusually strong-willed, which came to the notice of his teachers. As he grew older, he acquired physical endurance and intense idealism. He was the captain of the cross-country team in high school. In 1986, he graduated from W. T. Woodson High School.
In 1990, he graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. At that time, Christopher surprised his family by donating his remaining college funds―around $24,000―to a charity committed to fighting starvation, and disappearing with no further contact with his family. He then began traveling under the name 'Alexander Supertramp'.
Christopher made his way through South Dakota, California, and Arizona, where he worked at a grain elevator. He rowed a canoe down remote stretches of the Colorado River to the Gulf of California. He conserved as much of his gear and funds as he could.
He had a long-cherished dream of an 'Alaskan Odyssey', where he would live in solitude, far away from civilization. He maintained a journal, which contained his spiritual and physical progress as he faced the forces of nature.
He hitchhiked to Fairbanks, Alaska, in April 1992. One of McCandless' most interesting quotes comes from a letter he had written to a friend he had made while hitchhiking:
'So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future....
...The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun'.
He hiked along the snow-covered Stampede Trail, and found an abandoned bus used as a hunting shelter parked on an overgrown section of the trail near Denali National Park. He started his 'odyssey' by setting up camp in the bus.
He had some camping equipment, a 10-pound bag of rice, a book of local plant life, and a Remington semi-automatic rifle. He had assumed he would be able to search for plant food and capture prey. His journal contains entries of a total of 189 days. These entries range from joyous to grim, reflecting McCandless' fluctuating fortunes.
In July, after living in the bus for several months, Christopher decided to leave, but found the trail blocked by the Teklanika River, which was much larger and more powerful than what it had been in April. On August 12, 1992, Christopher wrote what are assumed to be his final words in his journal: 'Beautiful Blueberries'.
McCandless tore the final page from Louis L'Amour's memoir, 'Education of a Wandering Man', which contains an excerpt from a Robinson Jeffers poem entitled 'Wise Men in Their Bad Hours':
'Death's a fierce meadowlark: but to die having made Something more equal to centuries than muscle and bone, is mostly to shed weakness. The mountains are dead stone, the people admire or hate their stature, their insolent quietness, the mountains are not softened or troubled and a few dead men's thoughts have the same temper!'
On the other side of the page, He added, 'I HAVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE AND THANK THE LORD. GOODBYE AND MAY GOD BLESS ALL!' His body was found in his sleeping bag inside the bus. He had died of starvation on August 18, 1992.
Christopher was the subject of the book 'Into the Wild' by Jon Krakauer. Sean Penn wrote a screenplay from that book and directed the film of the same name in 2007.