Unattainably Daydreaming

(Crossposted on both The Life of a Father of Five, and My Unattainable Dreams)

I have mentioned (and to those that know me can attest to this) that I live with an unexplainable yearning to hermit myself away into the solitude of the Alaskan wilderness. This stems from a lot of different sources, some explainable (and understandable) while others stem from the more "socially anxious" nether-regions of my psyche that I have yet to fully understand.

Why Alaska? I am not sure. I think it has to do with population density (solitude), the weather (colder), the pristine beauty of the untamed wilderness (more of the solitude), and an intrigue of the unknown (which is very-very unlike me).

I have a "secret stash" of books and movies about Alaska and of people whose lives, stories, and adventures have become part of the Alaskan history, legend, and folklore.

Some examples of items from my "secret stash" include...

One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey - A Book by Sam Keith about Richard Proenneke
Alone in the Wilderness - A movie based on the book "One Man's Wilderness"
Alaska: Silence & Solitude - A movie that (although a big part of it) deals with more than just Proenneke.
Grizzly Man - A movie about the story of Timothy Tredwell
Nights of Ice - A book by Spike Walker about Crab Fishing on the Bearing Sea

Well, I guess that does not seem like such a huge "stash" of items... But I have also surfed, and read up a lot on both Proenekke and Tredwell... When it comes to these stories, I am like a sponge... I cannot get enough!

So, recently when the movie "Into the Wild" came out on DVD, you can imagine I was (to say the least) intrigued, and wanted to find out more. I discovered it was a move, based on the book "Into the Wild" (by Jon Krakauer), which was the true story of Christopher McCandless. I'm not going to go in to a lot of details about McCandless' story (you will need to read the book or see the movie for that). I found the movie hauntingly fascinating. The story of McCandless has been on the forefront of my mind for three days now. I have made a commitment to myself to add both the movie and the book to my "secret stash" (oh, yeah.. and to read the book too)...

While surfing info about McCandless, I came across a couple of other stories that have caught my attention, and now feel the need to find out more about them.

First is the story of John Mallon Waterman who's forage into (what appeared to be) insanity came to an end when his gear was located (without him) in March of 1981 after a solo attempt to ascend Denali (Mount McKinley) in which he departed in the early winter of that year. There is very little info available about Waterman that I have been unable to unearth, but I will continue trying.

I also came across the story of Carl McCunn. McCunn was also an Alaskan Adventurer who was air dropped in the Alaskan Interior for a photographic excursion. McCunn was left with ample supplies, and provisions for his needs - but neglected to make arrangements for anyone to pick him up at the end of his adventure. No one actually realized he was missing until the Alaskan State Troopers discovered his camp a year later. With him the Troopers found a 100 page journal.

Both McCandless and McCunn both left behind journals of their time in the Alaskan Wilderness. I understand that "Into the Wild" (both the Book and the Movie) are based on McCandless' Journal. What I would love to read is what exactly went through their minds (in their own words) throughout their adventure / ordeal. I have yet been unable to locate (in either published or unpublished (text, PDF, etc) formats) a copy of either of the unabridged journals of McCandless or McCunn.

If you are reading this post, and know of a source that would allow me access to the text of these Journals, PLEASE - use the link on my sidebar to drop me an email. I would be ever-so-grateful. Regardless of your view on these men and reasons for wanting to undertake such an journey, their stories are tragically important, and I (for one) am intrigued by these stories.

If you have not yet read the book, or seen the movie "Into the Wild", then please read the article "Death of an Innocent" (also by Jon Krakauer, author of "Into the Wild"). As for an internet article, it is long. But if you find Alaska, Richard Proenneke, or the stories of Timothy Tredwell, John Mallon Waterman, and Carl McCunn at all interesting, you will NOT be disappointed.

Fear not dear friends, family, and regular readers. You can take comfort knowing that I will not be undertaking a "life threatening" solo Alaskan Adventure. (a fact that my wonderful wife (the Mother of Five) will be glad to see that I "admit" to). You see, as much as I dream about dropping off the grid, and disappearing into the solitude that is the Alaskan wilderness, that opportunity has passed me up. It passed me up one wife ago, five children ago, one house ago, and 100 lbs ago. My family obligations prevent me from ever reaching this "Unattainable Dream". BUT.... Since I acknowledge I will never really disappear into the Alaskan wilderness, I feel it's ok to maintain it as just that. An "Unattainable Dream". So I will not feel guilty keeping and even adding to my "secret stash".

Don't misunderstand me though. I WILL visit Alaska one day. It will be an "extended" visit that includes both urban and rural settings. The difference is that this visit will include an "end date" (and unlike Carl McCunn, will have an "exit plan").

Now that I have decided it's ok to maintain this as an "Unattainable Dream" I discovered a couple of other items that are slated to be added to the "secret stash"...

The Frozen North - A movie of footage taken by Richard Proenneke with his 8mm movie camera
Danger Stalks the Land - A book by Larry Kaniut (includes information about Mallon McCunn)
Working the Edge - A book by Spike Walker about King Crab Fishing off the Alaskan Coast

Thanks for letting me daydream (unattainably daydream) with you...


  1. Kind of wierd that I also would love to get lost in Alaska!

    I always DVR the Alaska shows that are on the Travel Channel. I have been there once, and it was awesome.

    We went on a 1 week cruise through the inside passage, then we spent one week on land.

    We went in the middle of July and it was seriously 40 degrees out up there!

  2. When my dad got divorced (well, LAST TIME he got divorced) he said he wanted to go with me to Alaska. We have both always wanted to go. Alas, he hooked up again and that went out the window.

    But before I die, I WILL see the northern lights through the pristine air of Alaska.

    Hope you can too!

  3. Alaska is good, but I have this dream of a hut on an island in the south pacific. I moved back to Minnesota six years ago and I don't think I've gotten warm since...the screwed up thing is that I was born and grew up here...now I just want to wear nothing but a pair of shorts and flip flops.

  4. And see, I have been reading up on the North Angle lately. I wouldn't mind just getting lost up there for a while.

  5. WOW - you are so cool! I know it's been a dream of yours for a long time, but the fact you can write about it, fully knowing it won't come true, makes you one cool dude. FYI - Into the Wild is sitting in our DVR right now, just waiting for a day off with Topher....

  6. John Mallon Waterman was my first cousin once removed. I, and my father, who knew and climbed with his cousin John, find it destressing sometimes the way he is presented in Into the Wild. He wasn't exactly just a crackpot, you know. But I didn't know him so I can't precicely judge. If you want to know more about him, I recomend trying to find a copy of the 1979 (I think) American Alpine Journal, which has his account of his 145-day Solo on Mt. Hunter. (I do however warn you that it is slightly changed from the origional he sent them- I have read both, as My father has a copy of the orgional typewritten acount- still, it is quite gripping, and gives a better account of the man himself than someone else's portrait of him.) He was a great man, but also a deeply troubled one. I wish that I could do him justice.

    1. I know very little of Waterman, other than what I read (and paraphrased) on a few websites. If the "forage into what appeared to be insanity" remark is too offensive, I will rephrase it - I believe I took it from another website and added the "(what appeared to be)" myself out of respect.

      Thanks for the heads up on the American Alpine Journal. I'll be sure to look into that!


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