Stampede Trail 'magic bus'

A group of hikers take a break at Bus 142 along the Stampede Trail on June 21, 2009. 

A group of five Italian tourists was rescued this weekend from the “Into the Wild” bus located on the Stampede Trail near Healy.

The group called for help around 8 a.m. Saturday while en route to the bus, according to Alaska State Troopers and volunteers from the Tri-Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

The rescue workers used snowmachines to reach the hikers, who were approximately 15 miles west of the end of the trail.

Tri-Valley Fire Chief Brad Randall said the hikers were wearing “inadequate footwear for conditions.” Temperatures in the Denali area that day hovered around 10 degrees above zero with light snow.

One member of the group had “cold weather injuries” and required medical attention, according to AST spokeswoman Megan Peters. No other injuries were reported.

The bus — a 1946 International Harvester K-5 where hiker Christopher McCandless starved to death in 1992 — sits just off a clearing about 18 miles down the Stampede Trail and has become over the years a mecca for hikers and adventurers who have read Jon Krakauer’s book retelling McCandless’ story or watched the subsequent movie.

The bus has drawn criticism in recent years after several hikers died or had to be rescued trying to cross the swift Teklanika River, which crosses the trail to the bus.

Two hikers had to be rescued and one hiker went missing all within a consecutive three-month timespan in 2016. Additional rescues were made in 2017 and a Belarus woman drowned last year trying to cross the Teklanika River in July.

Last week family members of individuals who have died trying to reach the bus or on their way back from the bus addressed the Denali Borough Assembly expressing hope that the borough can help sponsor a project to build a bridge over the river.

Randall estimated the local department has assisted with rescues two to three times during the past five years. Rescues from the area of the bus are usually handled by Alaska State Troopers and the National Park Service.

Peters did not have trooper statistics on bus-related rescues readily available Sunday.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.