Krakauer picks up McCandless’ trail at Bullhead City, Arizona where Chris stays for two months, flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Chris’ coworkers remember Chris as a responsible, but rebellious worker, who would always show up, but worked slowly at the grill and resented wearing socks and shoes to work.
Though willing to take low-paying jobs and work hard for his money, Chris shows disdain for his menial job and capitalism by subverting McDonald’s company policies, further demonstrating Chris’ complicated relationship with work and wealth. He works for money only in order to free himself from having to work from money for a while.
McCandless takes a liking for Bullhead City and makes an arrangement with an old man named Charlie to squat in an abandoned trailer on the outskirts of town. Chris writes to Jan Burres, inviting her and Bob to visit him, but before they can depart Chris arrives at their campsite located at the Slabs, an unconventional campground for vagabonds and drifters. Chris explains that he was tired of life in Bullhead City.
McCandless’ rapid movements from one town to the next not only underscore his itinerant lifestyle, but also his mercurial ways. Just as Chris’ attitudes and moods change, so too do his movements and living arrangements. Yet while Chris is quick to change, he fails to recognize that nature and society shift in unpredictable ways, as well.
Chris helps Jan sell secondhand books at the Slab’s flea market by recommending books and stories by his favorite author and chronicler of the Klondike, Jack London. He frequently talks about his plans to go on a “great Alaskan odyssey.”
A seventeen year-old girl named Tracy develops a crush on Chris, but he doesn’t take her seriously. Instead he bonds with Jan, revealing to her that he actually hails from D.C.
Chris tends to gravitate towards motherly figures over romantic relationships. While he flees his own family, there is a hint that some part of him is seeking a familial love he can believe in.
After a week, McCandless decides to leave the Slabs. Jan drives him to Salton City, California so that he can pick up his last McDonald’s paycheck. She attempts to give Chris some money, but he refuses. She finally persuades him to accept some knives and long underwear for Alaska. Jan later finds the long underwear tucked under the car’s seat. Though angered by Chris’ action, she figures he’ll be all right.
Chris’ refusal of Jan’s money and supplies, not only demonstrates Chris’ unwillingness to accept the aid of others it also suggests that his extreme self-reliance is also extremely self-destructive. Such supplies could aid Chris on his journey, but Chris places his pride above his wellbeing and comfort. Further, his decision to leave indicates that he feels the need to prioritize his independence over making human connections.