Updated on June 1, 2021
Have you ever dreamed about seeing Magic Bus 142 from the movie/book “Into the wild”? Now you have a chance to make it. Here you will find all the details and directions. Good luck!
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(Attention! The post contains a spoiler! It should not be read by people who have not watched the movie “Into the wild” yet!!! Watch the film and come back to us, please!)
“Happiness is real when shared” – these are the last written words of dying in loneliness, in the Alaskan wilderness, the hero of the movie “Into the wild” – Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch).
What a paradox! The young man chose ideals, decided on loneliness. Left family, friends, society, and norms. He abandoned all civilization goods, wanted freedom in its purest form, and wanted to live in harmony with nature. He’s holed up in the wilderness to discover that the real life of man and the recipe for happiness is when you share it with other people! He lost the fight with the power of nature he loved so much.
He dies alone, in his Magic Bus 142, missing another human being.
A film story that makes you cry happened. It’s real. In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. Young Chris was an intelligent boy. He graduated from school with excellent results, and had a chance for a professional career. He had a future, and his parents were proud of him, and they wanted to support him financially in college.
But Chris had other plans for life. Different than expected by parents and society. He sets out on a lonely journey to Alaska, breaking off contacts with loved ones. He runs away, looking for himself. But does he find it? He abandons materialism, in search of freedom. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself . In a lonely journey, he reaches up to Alaska. Cut off from the world lives in harmony with nature in Magic Bus 142. All this loneliness to understand in the last moments of life that life is the most beautiful when you can share it with someone. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter….
Almost everyone who watched the movie raises the dream of seeing Alaska, we too. The story of Christopher led us to our journey and The Van Escape project. I don’t even know how many times we watched the movie and listened to the soundtrack composed by Eddie Vedder.
The lyrics of the “Society” song have accompanied us for a long time on every journey:
” It’s a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all, you won’t be free
Society, you’re a crazy breed
I hope you’re not lonely without me
When you want more than you have, you think you need
And when you think more than you want, your thoughts begin to bleed
I think I need to find a bigger place
Cause when you have more than you think, you need more space.”
Magic Bus 142
In the hard-to-reach Alaskan wilderness, in the Denali National Park, beyond the Teklanika River lies the Magic Bus 142 wreck to which Christopher lived and died.
Sean Penn directed the story described by Jon Krakauer in 2007. For us one of our favorites films ever. The director of the film said that he abandoned the idea of filming scenes on a real bus out of respect for Chris and his family. Instead, a replica of the Magic Bus 142 was built and set in the wilderness.
Scenes were shot in Alaska at different times of the year to show the true beauty but also the hostility of the Alaskan wilderness and the real power of nature that defeated Chris.
A replica of the bus from the movie is currently in the small town of Healy, by the brewery. You can’t miss it when you are driving to Denali National Park. It was a must-see point for us in Alaska. So, all the pictures you see here were taken in a bus replica from the movie, not in the original Magic Bus.
When I got on the rusty Magic Bus 142 (replica from the movie), tears ran down my cheeks. I saw a crumbling bed and furs which covered freezing Chris.
The mirror in which he looked and talked to himself because he had no one to talk to. The stove he warmed up at. Notes in which he shared his thoughts. He abandoned society, and yet he wrote. He could not completely cut himself off from contact with the world. His notes suggest that he needed this contact badly. History Into the wild is a story about dreams, about a steep path to their realization. It is a story about giving your life to realize dreams. But also it is about that we often idealize our goals and when we start to know them we collide with complicated reality. What we dream about is not always what we need in life.
It is a story about a confrontation with oneself, about the search for one’s self — a story that never lets you forget about itself.
Many who watched or read the story dreamed of moving into the wilderness, following Chris in Alaska. Many want not only to see Alaska but also the see the wreck of the original Magic Bus 142.
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Who dare risk life
It is hard to imagine the rush of young people who necessarily want to see the original wreck, the casket in which the hero died. And yet, every year, young people from around the world decide to face the power of nature. It is not enough for them to see a perfect replica of the Magic Bus 142 from the movie. They necessarily want to reach the original one …into the wild… Many lose to nature.
We do not judge them and their needs, everyone pursues their dreams. Everyone pays their price for their implementation.
Our dream was to see a replica of Magic Bus 142. It provides sufficient emotions without a fight with nature. We know we have no chance with the wilderness. During our stay in Denali Park, the water level in the Teklanika River was the lowest for many years. The dry summer and the tragic fires that affected Alaska caused the river possible to cross with high probability. We had enough time to try, but it was not our goal. Let Christopher’s place of death remain a place of memory for his loved ones. We were touched enough when we entered the movie replica Magic Bus 142.
As a warning, for those who necessarily want to see the original in the wilderness, we will say that three months before our stay in Denali, a newlywed couple from Belarus flew to Alaska on their honeymoon. They wanted to get to the original Magic Bus 142 and decided to force the Teklanika River. A 24-year-old girl drowned a month after her wedding…
Is it worth giving your life for dreams? … Each of us has its answer.
UPDATE. 18 June 2020 – the original bus was taken from the wilderness.
Too many daredevils tried to get there and lost their lives. So, the bus for the safety of tourists was removed by Alaska Army National Guard. You can read more about this here.
Now you can visit the Magic Bus 142 (replica from the movie) in Healy. So, check our hints below.
Before you go – Practical Information.
How to get there?
Magic Bus 142 (replica from the movie, not an original one) is located in 49th State Brewing Company in Healy, 10-miles north of the entrance to Denali National Park. It’s located at Mile 248.4 Parks Hwy., next to McKinley RV & Campground.
Admission is free. Place is open from 11 a.m. till late hours (depend on the events in the brewery). You can get there by car; parking is free. It is easy to get there from Denali by shuttle.
Where to stay – lodging?
It’s on the way to/from Denali National Park. If you like to spent here more then a few hours, you can visit McKinley RV & Campground. But most of the people (we too) go there for an hour or two to take pictures and drink a local beer.
Accommodation options in Denali are very limited and rather expensive. We strongly suggest booking them as soon as possible and far in advance. And we share our opinion in our 10 Days Alaska Itinerary for 2020. Check Denali lodging section.
What to do?
You can walk inside The Magic Bus 142 and take your self-portrait like the one found inside the camera of Christopher McCandless (Fairbanks City Transit System Bus 142). Or other photos (depends on your imagination). Check our Photography hints.
Then you can try one of the 49th State Brewing Company handcrafted beers or enjoy a burger or steak in their popular bar & grill. The food was excellent, and we highly recommended it.
Wide selection of organized guided tours you will find on viator.com.
Where to eat?
The food was great in the 49th State Brewing Company bar & grill in Healy, and we highly recommended it.
We found in Healy (249.2 Parks Hwy.) a small, inconspicuous place — a cafe with excellent coffee, snacks, and souvenirs. Alaskan Coffee Bean – it is worth going for coffee in a pleasant atmosphere.
What season is best?
The season in Alaska lasts 3-4 months – from June to September. The brewery is open from 11 a.m.
What time of day is best?
All the day is good, but it depends on the weather. They are open from 11 a.m. till late (depends on events in brewery bar&restaurant). All-day is ok. The bus is hidden in trees, in shadows most of the day.
What photographic opportunities are here?
You can walk inside The Magic Bus 142 and take your self-portrait like the one found inside the camera of Christopher McCandless (Fairbanks City Transit System Bus 142). The bus is very damaged and rusty. Around you can see the fence, brewery. It’s best to photograph the interior and the bus itself.
The best photo locations in Alaska you will find in our Alaska Travel&Photo Guide.
What gear should I take with me?
Any gear will do, even mobile is enough. But if you can afford to have a camera with a wide lens (24-70), it will be great. You can also check our Alaska Photography Gear Packing List to see what we use.
Does it require any hiking or other activities?
No, it’s an accessible destination.
We do not recommend to hike to original bus. If you want to do it – do it at your own risk.
What kind of clothes do you need?
Any. But if you are looking for some recommendations: How to prepare for a trip to Alaska? What to take for a trip to Alaska? And what to wear in Alaska? Check our Alaska Packing List.
How long I need to get great pictures here?
1 – 2 hours would be optimum.