Christopher Johnson McCandless was an American hiker and itinerant traveler, who also went by the name "Alexander Supertramp". After graduating from college in 1990, McCandless traveled across the North American continent and eventually hitchhiked to Alaska in April 1992. There, he set out along an old mining road known as the Stampede Trail, with minimal supplies, hoping to live simply off the land. Almost four months later, McCandless' decomposing body, weighing only 30 kilograms (66 lb), was found by hunters in a converted bus, Fairbanks Bus 142, used as a backcountry shelter along the Stampede Trail, on the eastern bank of the Sushana River. His cause of death was officially ruled to be starvation, although the exact cause remains the subject of some debate.
In January 1993, Jon Krakauer published McCandless' story in that month's issue of Outside magazine. He had been assigned the story and had written it under a tight deadline. Inspired by the details of McCandless' story, Krakauer wrote and published the more extensive biographical book Into the Wild (1996), about McCandless' travels. The book was subsequently adapted into a 2007 film directed by Sean Penn, with Emile Hirsch portraying McCandless. That same year, McCandless' story also became the subject of Ron Lamothe's documentary The Call of the Wild (2007).
The Girls Road trip last summer was camping across the state of South Dakota from the Eastern border to the Western. My daughter had watched the movie "Into the Wild" before we went, not realizing that was going to be one of the stops on our route.
While I'm sure many have made trips to the little town on the prairie called "Carthage" just because of this book, the movie or just studying the route or history of the ill-fated Chris McCandless, that's not actually why we were going. My extended family happens to be from that area - it's where our family history is. I had traveled there the year before on my own solo-cross country trip and I wanted to stop through again with one of my kids with to show her where our family hails from. It was only a happy accident that I have a hippie college girl daughter who had seen the movie, and didn't realize the connection until I told her where the next stop on our trip route was that day.
The Cabaret, where Mr. McCandless worked to raise some funds to continue traveling was open the first time I stopped in Carthage but on our trip last summer it was closed down. Still, we obviously took the "stand in front of the sign" photo. While I was taking a couple pictures a woman (resident of the town) was getting into her car and saw us. I was a little embarrassed to be looking like a tourist... even though I kind of was. She said knowingly "You're here because of the movie...."
Which led to a conversation about how yes, but no. That my family was from the area and I wanted to show my daughter our family history, etc.
At that point she asked if we had been in the straw museum yet?
No, and it was closed.
But she had a key and offered to open it for us and give us a personal tour!
We jumped on that chance and enjoyed looking at the history of the town and area and yes - finding items from my own extended family throughout the museum.
There isn't much to Carthage if you plan to visit.
And don't be low on gas because there isn't a gas station anywhere near.
The business district is about a block long - although there isn't actually much 'business' there. They do have a post office though. And the museum. And a city hall and I think there was a bar. I know there is a laundry and shower building!
I love this area... absolutely love love love it.
Across the street from the Cabaret.
Inside the town's museum
Yep, that's pretty much all of it.
You might also be interested in these products related to the post - available through Amazon:
Into the Wild
Into the Wild
Into the Wild [Blu-ray]
The Wild Truth