Manitoban got 'pretty beat up' on hike to Into the Wild bus in Alaska
Matthew Sharp says he was swept away by strong current in river before issuing distress signal
When 22-year-old Matthew Sharp was swept 90-metres down the middle of a fast-flowing Alaskan river Wednesday, the ensuing rush of adrenaline at first kept the underlying pain at bay.
"I was so hyped ... the reality of what just happened didn't yet sink in," Sharp wrote in an email to CBC News. "I collected myself and continued hiking."
Sharp was in the middle of a 60 kilometre round trip hike to a beat up old bus made famous in the Jon Krakauer book and movie adaptation of Into the Wild.
The book chronicled the life and death of 24-year-old Chris McCandless, who hiked into the Alaska wilderness in April 1992 with little food or equipment. He was found starved to death in the bus almost four months later.
"I read the book, saw the movie when I was a teenager," Sharp said. "I fantasized about it for a long time and the idea of escape and travelling around seeing something you've never seen before in nature. It's really raw."
In order to make it to the bus, hikers first have to trek 30 kilometres into the bush, crossing two rivers with currents that vary depending on rain and glacier melt water, Sharp said.
Based on advice for crossing the rivers he read on forums online, Sharp undid all of the straps on his backpack and hiking gear before wading in.
Due to recent rains, the second river — the one that took him for a ride — was much wider, deeper and faster than usual, he added.
"I was at the point I had to get rid of it and get to the shore," sharp said. "[Tried] to catch the bottom with my feet and I wasn't able to do it. It was pretty frantic bit of time."
"Once I was about halfway across, the current overwhelmed me and dragged me and my [50 pounds of] gear down stream.... I got pretty beat up. While being dragged, I was able to grab a fallen tree and get to shore."
Sharp collected himself and kept going until he reached the bus, at which point he snapped a few photos and started to set up camp.
"At this point I started to feel how beat up I was; bruising to my legs, back, shoulders and ankles," Sharp said. "By the next morning I was so sore I was unable to carry my gear, let alone cross the rivers again and hike the 30 km out."
After deliberating over what to do, Sharp said he realized there was only really one option.
"It took a lot for me to do it, but I activated my locator," he said.
Sharp was rescued by Alaska State Troopers in the middle of the woods Thursday after he sent a distress signal from his personal locator beacon a few hours earlier. Troopers responded by helicopter and found Sharp, who was flown to Fairbanks.
Sharp said he would likely only make the trip in the summer again if he could share the experience with someone else who had a desire like his to see the bus.
The Into the Wild bus has long been a destination for those seeking to retrace McCandless steps.
"I was alone the whole time," Sharp said. "When I saw it, it was a ... fairly emotional experience. Made everything very real."
With files from the Associated Press and Courtney Rutherford