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McCandless story has U.P. connection

October 21, 2007
Mining Journal
The bestselling book “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer, which has been made into a film by Sean Penn, has an Upper Peninsula connection.

It’s the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man from Virginia who walked away from everything he knew to travel the country as “Alexander Supertramp.” Eventually, the young man died in the Alaskan wilderness.

Christopher McCandless’s mother, Billie, was born Wilhelmina Johnson to Mr. and Mrs. Loren Johnson of Iron Mountain. The book explains that Billie and her husband, Walt, often visited the U.P. with their children, including Chris, when the children were young.

Loren Johnson was a woodsman who had a profound love of nature he passed on to his grandson. Krakauer wrote, “Loren, not surprisingly, was charmed by Chris. And Chris adored his grandfather. The old man’s backwoods savvy, his affinity for the wilderness, left a deep impression on the boy.”

Negaunee native Steven Wiig, who has a role in the film “Into the Wild,” said Chris’s sister, Carine, told him her maternal grandmother and several aunts and uncles still reside in the Iron Mountain area.

At the Hollywood premiere of the film Wiig spoke with Billie McCandless about their mutual U.P. background.



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