Sin Mong Xing of Singapore might have been a little lost, but he wasn't starving, deranged or suicidal. The 23-year-old last week was picked up -- perhaps rescued -- by trooper snowmachiners on the notorious Stampede Trail near Healy during his attempt to find the abandoned bus made famous in the book and movie "Into the Wild." Some passing snowmachiners called troopers after deciding Xing was mentally unbalanced.
But the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports Xing spent a lot more time preparing for his journey and practicing winter camping than did Christopher McCandless, the 23-year-old who died in the bus in 1992, perhaps from starvation. "I wasn't one of those pilgrims trying to find myself out here," he said.
McCandless may have inspired Xing to call himself Alex and to travel thousands of miles from his island country of Singapore, but not long after arriving in Fairbanks on Dec. 1, Xing's opinion of McCandless's meager plan for surviving in the Bush quickly started changing. ...
Xing lodged at Billie's Backpackers Hostel off College Road, where he found a welcoming, temporary home with a stream of interesting people passing through - some experienced outdoorsmen from Alaska villages and the Bush.
"He sat there and he talked to everybody," said Billie Cook, hostel proprietor.
A day hike quickly convinced Xing that he had a lot to learn about surviving in the subarctic.
"He didn't do very well the first time," Cook said. "He went out on a very cold day with one of the hostelers and he came right back with him."
Xing learned how to build a fire and began sleeping out in the cold. He gathered food and secondhand supplies and, when he thought he was ready for the 26-mile hike to the bus, hitchhiked to the Stampede Trail. Xing eventually did make it to the bus, but only after he caught a ride on a trooper snowmachine.