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October 14, 2011 10:00 PM

Retracing The Steps Of Christopher McCandless

A production crew from Animal Planet is in South Dakota this week. They are retracing the steps of Christopher McCandless.

He's the young man who hiked into the Alaskan wilderness in1992 with little food or equipment, hoping to live in isolation.

McCandless' journey has been well documented.  A movie was made about his travels called 'Into the Wild.'  But now Animal Planet is producing a one-hour long documentary about the man who died a lonely death.

The story of Christopher McCandless has been told more than once. But now Animal Planet is revisiting it as part of the 20th anniversary of McCandless' journey to Alaska.

"The show revisits all the people he met and places he went and retells it through pictures and the people he met," Animal Planet Producer Greg Francis said.

One of those people is Wayne Westerberg of Carthage. He hired McCandless to work at the grain elevator and now Animal Planet is using him to help tell McCandless' story. 

"I've seen it told a lot of different ways.  Everybody has a little different angle on it.  Like Greg said, it's 20-year project, kind of like the never ending story.  There's always one more segment and one more story that seems to interest people," Westerberg said.

Westerberg took the filming crew to the Cabaret Thursday night, a bar McCandless liked to hang out at. 

"So many people there that know the story and know what was going on and just to have them incorporated into the shoot was really great.  That's something we can't do in L.A. or other places," Francis said.

Westerberg was one of the locals who developed a close relationship with McCandless. To this day, he's still the one guy who knew the most about McCandless' adventurous spirit. 

"Everybody asks me all the questions.  Like I said to them, if I knew there was going to be this many questions that would go on for a 20-year window, I should have taken a lot better notes," Westerberg said.

The Animal Planet crew will be in South Dakota one more night before heading north to Alaska. The documentary will be released sometime next year.


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