Get in Touch

If you would like to contact us in relation to the Back to the Wild book or DVD, you can email mail@backtothewildbook.org or fill out the form below.

Our Team

Meet the Team that made this book possible.

The team is composed of “Into the Wild” acolytes (Aaron Dunlap and Heather Horton) that have been to the bus the hard way and then they reached out to find Billie and Walt; Virginia Beach Community Chapel friends of Billie and Walt (Gloria Davis, Mary Gram, Rob Esperat, and Brant Schultheis) that were moved by the book and wanted to become involved when Walt described his idea to them; and special talents that had also been moved by the book and film (professional photographers Joseph and Kimberly Moss.) Augmenting this core team were Jan Burres, Wayne Westerberg and Jon Krakauer who were always available to answer questions about the time, place and content of a particular photograph.

This team has been working together since 2007 to select the best photographs, identify the place and time of their creation, provide a caption and brief description of the visceral content of each photograph, and weave them together to form a moving diary of Chris’ Journey, now known as Back to the Wild.

 

 

 

Walt & Billie McCandless
Jan Burres
Wayne Westerburg
Adam Read
Gloria Davis
Mary Gram
Heather Horton
Aaron Dunlap
John Knight
Joseph and Kimberly Moss
Rob Esperat
Brant Schultheis

Walt & Billie McCandless

Walt & Billie McCandless

Chris’s Parents

The finality was permanent but the mystery of his whereabouts was decipherable because Chris had recorded his 2 yr odyssey with a camera, a few cryptic logs, and post cards and letters to people that he had befriended along the way. The camera shown in our photograph and an earlier camera that failed to survive being buried in the desert outside of Las Vegas took 558 photos that survived his many treks through the western United States ranging from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez to Alaska. During these two plus years, Chris had racked up thousands of miles travelling on foot, hitching rides, riding the rails, and paddling a canoe to many destinations. Along the way he befriended many, learned much, and risked everything for the sake of perpetual new vistas and experiences. Jon Krakauer used the photographic treasure trove to trace Chris’ Journey but although many learned about Chris and his adventures through Jon’s book and Sean Penn’s film, both bearing the title “Into the Wild” only 35 of this vast storehouse of photographs ever made it to media.

The bulk of this photographic treasure remained stored in a bank vault until 2006 years ago when an infringement attorney required us to copyright all of the photographs to prevent their use without benefit to the Foundation that we had formed in 1994 to help others with the gains received from the sale of the book and later film “Into The Wild.” Walt was jolted into the realization that these photographs chronicled Chris’ story as it unfolded through his eyes via the miracle and blessing of the camera.

Walt and Billie McCandless.

Jan Burres

Jan Burres

Chris’s Friend

Jan Burres and Christopher McCandless first crossed paths in the summer of 1990. Jan spotted Chris by the road picking berries, gave him a lift and he set up camp with her and her boyfriend Bob at Orick Beach in Northern California for a time. An instant friendship formed between them, and Chris stayed in regular communication with Jan for the next two years during his travels. The last time they saw one another was in Niland at an abandoned naval base known as ‘Slab City’ in southern California. Jan ran a booth selling books and other miscellaneous items there and Chris stayed with her there for a time. They laughed, swapped stories of adventures on the road, and shared a passion for exploration.

These days Jan works tirelessly at a homeless shelter in Joplin, Missouri. She strives to make a difference in the world every day, and does. She speaks fondly of Chris and of their connection says, poignantly, “he was my friend.”

Wayne Westerburg

Wayne Westerburg

Chris’s Friend

Alex and I met in early September, 1990 on U.S. Highway #2 in Cut Bank, Montana. He was headed east and asked if he could get a ride. I told him I was only going east as far as Shelby, because my crew was harvesting wheat at Sunburst, Montana, north of Shelby. A thunder storm came up and I asked Alex if he wanted to continue his journey in the rain or come to Sunburst and stay at the camper we had. He joined us for several days and got a taste of harvesting. Before I took him back to Shelby to continue his journey, he asked about a fall job and I told him when he was done seeing Montana to come to Madison, South Dakota and go to work.

Adam Read

Adam Read

Online Marketing

Adam was the pioneer in the introduction of Christopher McCandless to media attention and interaction. He blazed the trail and in essence paved the way for people all over the world that were seeking the innermost details of and perhaps some enlightenment from Chris’ journey. He was generous with his time and expert advice in providing counsel to the CJM Foundation and created and initiated the www.backtothewildbook.org web site.

I was first introduced to the McCandless story by my sister in 2009. Naturally I had heard about it in different types of media, but never got around to looking into it further. She came to visit me in Norway and had the book with her. She said that I have to read it because I would probably relate to the main character – Christopher McCandless.

Examples of this similarity are – the relationship I have with my father, my itchy feet that makes me travel and not sit still and the feeling that life is too short. As my fiance’s deceased little brother lived by – Face Your Fears and Live Your Dreams. I have been a police detective, a fruit picker – you name it, I have probably tried it.

Prior to my sister’s visit, a friend sent me the DVD – as a must see. Having kids and 2 jobs made it very difficult to manage the time. Eventually I started to read the book. I couldn’t put it down. Read it cover to cover in 24 hours. I then watched the movie, saw the documentary and did research online.

I then built a website on the story which became very popular very quickly. Through this website came the contact with Walt and Billie McCandless – Chris’ parents. They have given me the honor of making and maintaining the book website as a volunteer.

I am an Aussie but have travelled the world and now live in a foreign speaking country – Norway. The surfing days are limited and my life is a contrast, but it is good.
I have a small web design and SEO business, so if you need a website, please go to my website.

Also, check out the band Thirteen Senses – their Album ‘The Invitation’ is (in my mind) a good tribute to the story…
Cheers,

Adam

Gloria Davis

Gloria Davis

Editor for the Book and DVD

Virginia Beach Community Chapel is our church family and where we met Walt and Billie McCandless in 2004. Billie and I became fast friends in a very short period of time with a common heart that knows tragedy. As our friendship turned into a sisterhood, we found strength in each other. Traveling together to Nicaragua on a mission trip cemented our relationship, which we both believed was orchestrated by God’s love for us. During this developing relationship, both Walt and Billie shared the story of their son, Chris. It was only after I was asked to serve on the Board of Directors of the Christopher Johnson McCandelss Memorial Foundation in 2007, that Walt approached me with the idea of writing a book. Since that time, I have served as the chief editor and one of the writers for the book and DVD, “Back to the Wild” which traces Chris’ two year odyssey through hundreds of unpublished photographs and writings.

Mary Gram

Mary Gram

Member of the Book Team

Hi, I’m Mary Gram. I first heard about Chris McCandless from a friend who knew his parents. I read “Into the Wild” and found it intriguing that a young man would leave what others would consider a good life to go out into the wilderness and forge his own way. A short time later I met Walt & Billie, Chris’ parents, and soon grew to love them. From a distance I watched them go through the process of the making of the movie and I wondered how they could deal with the emotional pain that was being relived over and over again. I knew that they were being strengthened by their faith in God and the love of their extended family. Courage seems to be a family trait.

After they learned of Chris’ death, Walt and Billie established a foundation in his memory which helps fund underprivillaged children. When I heard about it I wanted to be a part of it and offered my services. Walt gave me an opportunity to work with the team on the book, Back to the Wild.

Heather Horton

Heather Horton

Artist, and DVD Voiceover

I read Jon Krakauer’s book “Into The Wild” years ago while working at a bookshop in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. Chris’ story was powerful and resonated with me on a deep level. His desire to explore and test himself is a universal component of the human condition. When Sean Penn’s film of the same name came out in 2008 my interest in Chris’ Journey was reignited once again.

I had to do something, contribute somehow. I am a professional artist by vocation, so naturally my desire was to offer up something in the creative realm.

I decided to write to Walt and Billie, Chris’ parents, and offered to do a painting about Chris for them. I wanted to pay some respect to his journey and memory. A wonderful friendship blossomed and soon became an ongoing relationship and hands-on involvement in Chris’ legacy, reflected in the charitable outreach of the Foundation that bears his name.

When I saw the hundreds of photographs that Chris had taken to document his Journey, I was greatly moved. They are a visual testament to a life lived fully and intensely, on the cusp of the unknown every day. They were riveting. We started to talk about how we could show the world these photographs and writings that their son left behind. Over two years later here we are. It is an exciting time and the culmination of a great amount of work done by many talented people. I will never forget being involved in this project. It has been a true labor of love.

I am an adventurer, explorer and full-time practicing artist from Burlington, Ontario, Canada. I have gallery representation in Oakville, Ontario and Toronto, Ontario. Moments of transition, reflection, and the delicate tenacity of the human psyche are themes found within my paintings. Perhaps that is why Chris’ photographs and words move me so very much.

Aaron Dunlap

Aaron Dunlap”

Entrepenure

Aaron is a born entrepreneur and adventurer. He has sailed across oceans, trekked into the far regions of Nepal and found his way out to the Bus 142 over a decade ago! He is taking some time off of adventuring right now to build a business he hopes will fund future adventures. He lives in Gig Harbor with his kitty Samantha.

Aaron’s involvement in the McCandless foundation came about through a natural evolution of a friendship with Walter and Billie McCandless.

John Knight

John Knight holding a large fish in the Chesapeake Bay

John Knight

Book Distributor

John met Walt and Billie in 2011 at Virginia Beach Community Chapel, when they were just introducing Back to the Wild. John, his wife Lisa and two boys are now members at the Chapel, along with CJM board members Walt, Billie, Gloria & Mary. John is the owner of The Book Exchange in Norfolk, Virginia and the first book that got him hooked on reading was “Into the Wild”. It was the hand of God that brought them together to help raise money to aid Women and their young children through the CJM Foundation.

Joseph and Kimberly Moss

Joseph and Kimberly Moss

Photographic Analysis

Passion, family, heart, soul & fun describes the Moss Family and Joseph Moss Photography. It is also these principles that drew them to the Back to the Wild journey. A little over 2 years ago, Joe had finished reading Into the Wild, and Kim’s friend from Chicago had given them to movie to watch. Shortly following, events began to come together quite quickly. They were introduced to Walt and Billie McCandless by fellow team member Gloria Davis. Joe – drawn into the art of what Chris had created on his journey was honored to be a part of this magnificent endeavor. (Plus Billie’s homemade bread didn’t hurt either!) Kim, fascinated by the logistics and execution of the project was also thrilled to be on board.

In business for many years, Joe (the one behind the camera) and Kim (the one in front of the camera) strive to create the ultimate experience with every session. When they are not “working”, they can be found running or training for a race or on the baseball field. Joe, Kim their sons Christian aka “Chin” and Cooper live in Virginia Beach VA.

Rob Esperat

Rob Esperat

DVD Team

Rob Esperat served as the creative architect for the “Back To The Wild” DVD project. He aligned the sequence of photographs used to describe Chris’ journey with music and narration. Some of the music was composed and played by Rob on Guitar. Rob personally narrated Treks 1 through 4 in the DVD and edited all of the narrations used in the DVD. He passed these building blocks on to Brant Schultheis for final integration and assembly into a finished DVD. Rob was serving as the Worship Pastor at Virginia Beach Community Chapel at the time of the DVD project and now serves as the Associate Pastor.

Brant Schultheis

Brant Schultheis

Brant

DVD Team

Brant Schultheis provided the technical skills needed to integrate photographs, logs, music and narrations into a finished product. He continued to work with the production process used to replicate thousands of copies with cover designs and appropriate packaging. Brant has continued to provide his unique skills to the benefit of the foundation in many ways. He supervised the rescanning of all of the 600+ photographs taken by Chris McCandless using the latest technologies to improve their resolution and clarity. He was the Foundation’s technical interface for the Hampton Virginia based M2 Pictures TV program about “Back To The Wild” that aired on Animal Planet. He served in the same capacity in the creation of an E-Books version of “Back To The Wild” and also helped to craft an E-Books description of Chris growing up entitled “The Early Years.” Brant continues to provide creative advice and production support for CJM Foundation projects.