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In October 1990, McCandless’s Datsun is found abandoned in the Mojave Desert by Bud Walsh, a National Park Service ranger. McCandless had driven it to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in July, and against posted regulations, had driven it off road in the park and had pitched a campsite. A few days later, flash flooding almost washed away his campsite, and his car’s engine got so wet he couldn’t get it to start.
Because he wasn’t supposed to have driven off-road, he couldn’t get help from the rangers, and so he left the car with a note saying whoever can get the car to work can keep it.