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Lake Mead was one of the first stops that Chris McCandless made on his journey west.

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Chris McCandless arrived in Lake Mead National Recreation Area on July 6th, with the temperature reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Ignoring posted warning that off-road driving is strictly forbidden, Chris steered the Datsun off the pavement where it crossed a broad, sandy wash. He drove two miles down the riverbed to the south shore of the lake. The empty desert stretched into the distance, shimmering in the heat. Chris pitched a tent in the puny shade and basked in his newfound freedom.

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Two days after Chris set up camp, a wall of thunderheads reared up in the afternoon sky, bringing in very hard rain. When the bore of brown water came rushing down from the high country, Chris had just enough time to gather his tent and belongings before they were swept away. The flash flood didn't have enough power to carry Chris's Datsun away leaving hardly any lasting damage on it. But when Chris tries to start the car, he drains the battery. Seeing this as an opportunity to shed unnecessary baggage, Chris decides to conceal his car as best he can beneath a brown tarp, stripped of its Virginia plates, and hid them. He than buried his Winchester deer-hunting rifle and a few other possessions that he might want to recover one day. He than arranged all his paper currency in a pile and set it on fire.
It wasn't until a National Park Service ranger named Bud Walsh walked into the backcountry to tally bear-paw poppies that Chris's car was found. When the rangers pulled off the tarp, they found an old yellow Datsun without license plates. A note taped to the windshield read, "This piece of shit has been abandoned. Whoever can get it out of here can have it." The doors had been unlocked. The floorboards were plastered with mud. They managed to jump start the car and drove it out to the National Park Service maintenance yard at Temple Bar. Over the next three years, the Park Service used Chris's car to make undercover drug buys that lead to numerous arrests in the crime-plagued national recreation area, including the bust of a high-volume methamphetamine dealer operating out of a trailer park near Bullhead City.

Leah Thompson