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Neil Darish was up on the roof shoveling a heavy snow off his Mc Carthy Lodge when he saw the two well-worn pickups coming down the road.It was a frigid January afternoon in 2002, a time of year when even a single unfamiliar vehicle is a strange sight in Mc Carthy; almost nobody visits in wintertime, when the 60-mile dirt route to town becomes a continuous, treacherous sheet of ice and the sun rises above the Wrangell Mountains for only a few hours each day.It was places like Mc Carthy—places where the rules of the civilized world gave way to the freedoms of wilderness—that Hale had always sought.He'd frequented San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district in the late sixties and had run in the same Los Angeles circles as Charles Manson and his Family; he'd taught transcendental meditation on an Oregon commune and had embarked on a vision quest in South America."Bob could've done anything with my life if he wanted to," says Priscilla Wilbourn, who followed Hale's meditation teachings in the early seventies and clearly remains transfixed by his charm. " Given this history, it's hard to believe that Hale didn't know exactly what he was doing that first night in Mc Carthy when he paraded his children into Darish's lodge: He wanted the gathered residents to trust him, to assume that his huge family's effect on the tiny community would be benign. By the end of the evening, Darish and his neighbors had politely encouraged Hale to buy property in the area.
Elias transformed Mc Carthy into a minor tourist destination.He said that he and his children had come to Mc Carthy looking for a new home.The potential addition of so many new residents was big news for a town of 50 that doesn't often get big news.Today it's about as far away from civilization as one can get by road in North America.