what was "the first of two pivotal setbacks" McCandless encountered that lead to his death?
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The first obstacle was the flooding that occurred at the Teklanika River when the ice melted. Because of the swollen river, and his neglect in scouting the trail, McCandless was unaware of other possibilites. Thus, he felt his best option was to return to the bus and take his chances there.
But it would still have been a very risky proposition, and at that point McCandless had no reason to take such a risk. He’d been fending for himself quite nicely in the country. He probably understood that if he was patient and waited, the river would eventually drop to a level where it could be safely forded. After weighing his options, therefore, he settled on the most prudent course. He turned around and began walking to the west, back toward the bus, back into the fickle heart of the bush.
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