Dead in Denali


The valley of the Teklanika River/National Park Service photo

UPDATED: 4 p.m.. June 10, 2016

Only 10 to 15 miles south of where the body of posthumously famous adventurer Chris McCandless was found, the National Park Service is reporting the discovery of new human remains.

These have been tentatively identified as those of another young man from the East Coast, 22-year-old Etienne Terrell from Atlanta, where McCandless attended Emory University before disappearing into the Alaska wild.

Denali National Park and Preserve spokeswoman Lynn Mcaloon said the identification of Terrell was based on personal effects and communications with friends and family of the missing, who has not been heard from for almost a year.On July 3 of last year, Terrell picked up a 28-day backcountry permit to go exploring in one of Alaska’s best-known national parks. He was never to be seen alive again.

He was found in a long lifeless camp along with his tent, sleeping bag and personal gear. A ranger described the camp as one that had “obviously overwintered,” Mcaloon said.

Backcountry hikers on Tuesday contacted park rangers to say they’d stumbled on the campsite tucked away out of sight of the park road and what appeared to be human remains. The site was near the Teklanika River about 30 miles west of the park entrance.

Details on Terrell’s plans in Alaska are sketchy. The park said he was never reported missing. According to Mcaloon, Terrell told family members back in the Lower 48 that he was “planning an extended wilderness trip in Alaska after his discharge from the military.”

The cause of death is unknown. Terrell’s body has been sent to the state medical examiner.

McCandless was discovered dead in an abandoned school bus along the Stampede Road on the northern edge of the 6-million-arce national preserve in 1992. He had starved to death. He was later made into an Alaska legend in the novel “Into the Wild.”

The book theorized that the 24-year-old McCandless, who proclaimed  himself “Alexander Supertramp” and left behind an odd note scratched into a piece of plywood, was on some sort of search for the meaning of life.

“Two Years He Walks The Earth. No Phone, No Pool, No Pets, No Cigarettes. Ultimate Freedom. An Extremist. An Aesthetic Voyager Whose Home is The Road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou Shall Not Return, Cause ‘The West is The Best’ And Now After Two Rambling Years Comes the Final and Greatest Adventure. The Climactic Battle To Kill The False Being Within And Victoriously Conclude the Spiritual Revolution! Ten Days & Nights of Freight Trains and Hitching Bring Him to the Great White North No Longer to Be Poisoned By Civilization He Flees, and Walks Alone Upon the Land To Become Lost in the Wild,” the note said.

2 replies »

  1. Nephi planned a long over-night hike and if he’d not gotten injured, he most likely would have made it. For Etienne it sounds like he had a much more ambitious plan. It’s hard to carry 28 days’ worth of food, for one thing; so maybe he planned on living off the land to some extent. From reading the huge tomes on hiker deaths that have been compiled for Yellowstone & Grand Canyon National Parks, the biggest factor in survival of your trip is to take a woman along. Being a young man alone is not such a good idea.

  2. Maybe Etienne & Nephi both had PTSD from their military service?
    It appears they had more in common with each other, since Chris McCandless was NOT of military persuasion.

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