The Alaskan wilderness is gorgeous, but it can be dangerous. Don Carroll, 19, got lost twice this summer, but was rescued safely.
Courtesy of Don Carroll
Courtesy of Don Carroll
The Bolingbrook teen ventured into the harsh and unforgiving Alaskan wilderness to see the "magic bus" made famous in the book/film "Into the Wild."
Don Carroll, 19, and his friend found the bus - and then got lost themselves for three days without food and water.
Unlike Christopher McCandless, the young adventurer who died near the bus, the teen's ordeal ended with a helicopter rescue Monday.
Now, it's the Alaskan rangers who are unforgiving.
"If police see me (hiking) in the woods, they're going to arrest me," a rueful Carroll said during a cell phone interview Tuesday.
It was the second time this summer that Carroll had to be rescued. He got lost in June after climbing Mount Healy in Denali National Park.
"The chief ranger said he's not going to come looking for me anymore," Carroll said.
Carroll, a culinary student at Joliet Junior College, is working as a line cook this summer at Princess Resorts, located about a mile from the national park.
Carroll and his friend, 21-year-old Jia Long He from China, set off Friday to find the bus. "It was just something I really wanted to see," Carroll said, adding that "it was really cool."
The pair had multiple layers of clothing, sleeping bags, a tent and a lighter - but no food or water. They had stashed their 30-pound food pack in some bushes when they had to cross a river, intending to come back to it after seeing the bus. Instead, they got lost.
Temperatures were in the 50s and 60s during the day, but near freezing at night, Carroll said.
They saw bear tracks, but no bears. They ate berries and drank river water. After the rescue, they were treated at a local clinic for mild dehydration.
Carroll said he and his friend were worried, but not that they would meet the same fate as McCandless.
"I was more worried about getting back home," he said.
In June, Carroll, hiking alone in a hoodie and jeans, became lost after climbing Mount Healy in Denali National Park. He suffered mild hypothermia after his clothes were soaked and he became disoriented, but was able to communicate with rangers by text messaging. Based on clues he texted them, rangers narrowed Carroll's location to just outside the park's boundary. They sent in a high-altitude rescue helicopter to retrieve him.
He also did a lot of hiking in the park this summer that ended uneventfully. He climbed Sugarloaf Mountain twice as well as the "Castle," a group of four rock spires along the Mount Healy ridgeline. He saw moose and marmots and a herd of Dall sheep and took dozens of photos of Alaska's stunning scenery.
He will return home to Bolingbrook in mid-September to go back to school.
Until then, his employer has suggested he conclude his Alaskan adventure with some community service.