The long read: At the age of 20, Christopher Knight parked his car on a remote trail in Maine and walked away with only the most basic supplies. He had no plan. His chief motivation was to avoid contact with people. This is his story
Christopher Knight was only 20 years old when he walked away from society, not to be seen again for more than a quarter of a century. He had been working for less than a year installing home and vehicle alarm systems near Boston, Massachusetts, when abruptly, without giving notice to his boss, he quit his job. He never even returned his tools. He cashed his final pay cheque and left town.
Knight did not tell anyone where he was going. I had no one to tell, he says. I didnt have any friends. I had no interest in my co-workers. He drove down the east coast of America, eating fast food and staying in cheap motels the cheapest I could find. He travelled for days, alone, until he found himself deep into Florida, sticking mostly to major roads, watching the world go by.
Eventually, he turned around and headed north. He listened to the radio. Ronald Reagan was president; the Chernobyl nuclear disaster had just occurred. Driving through Georgia and the Carolinas and Virginia, blessed with invincibility of youth, buzzed by the pleasure of driving, he sensed an idea growing into a realisation, then solidifying into resolve.
All his life, he had been comfortable being alone. Interacting with others was so often frustrating. Every meeting with another person seemed like a collision.
He drove north to Maine, where he had grown up. There arent many roads in the centre of the state, and he chose the one that went right by his familys house. I think it was just to have one last look around, to say goodbye, he said. He didnt stop. The last time he saw his family home was through the windscreen of his car.
He kept going, up and up and up. Soon he reached the shore of Moosehead Lake, the largest in Maine, and the point where the state begins to get truly remote. I drove until I was nearly out of gas. I took a small road. Then a small road off that small road. Then a trail off that. He went as far into the wilderness as his vehicle could take him.
Knight parked the car and tossed the keys on the centre console. He had a tent and a backpack but no compass, no map. Without knowing where he was going, with no particular place in mind, he stepped into the trees and walked away.