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The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon Paperback – July 1, 2014
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"Kevin Fedarko's new brilliant work... is the story about wilderness and the American mind, albeit an American mind juiced on Class V adrenaline... Perhaps because we sympathize so strongly with the characters of The Emerald Mile--thanks in no small part to Fedarko's flowing prose--you'll feel yourself lurching along with them on wooden boats, in ocher-hued canyons, beneath cobalt skies, into the frenzied thrashings of the Colorado river as the very lanscape of the West attempts to choke it." (Mountain magazine)
"The book is at its heart an engrossing meditation on the eternal struggle between man and nature." (Pittsburg Post-Gazette)
"Kevin Fedarko's remarkable The Emerald Mile re-creates an incredible voyage through the flood-swollen Grand Canyon in such heart-pounding detail that you need to pause every few pages to catch your breath... He writes so vividly that your favorite reading chair becomes a spray-soaked perch on a bucking boat hit hard by a river running high and fast." (Dallas Morning News)
"Crafting a tale as graceful and powerful as the natural wonder of which he writes... the books goes beyond your typical river porn, offering a wide appeal to everyone from history buffs and the Popular Mechanics set to environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts. In fact, it would not be overblown to say The Emerald Mile deserved a spot on the bookshelf alongside such enduring classics as Cadillac Desert, Desert Solitaire and Encounters with the Archdruid. It's that good...Fedarko will have you posied on the edge of your seat like a high-sider at in Lava Falls." (Durango Telegraph)
"His poetic and descriptive writing should only brighten his accolades and helps his non-fiction book read like a fast-paced fiction adventure...It isn't necessary to be a history buff or whitewater expert to enjoy this story... With meticulous research, notes and epilogue, Fedarko tells a satisfying story that is quite an entertaining ride." (Deseret News)
"The Emerald Mile is the rarest of creations–a magical convergence of words and paper, wood and water, rock and sky, human character and cosmic caprice. Can an adventure story be as beautiful as it is heart-stopping and exciting? This one is, and Fedarko’s book is as inspiring as a dory itself, flying down a wild river. I have no doubt it will become an instant classic, a timeless chronicle of what can still be legitimately called the American spirit." (Bob Shacochis author of Swimming in the Volcano and Easy in the Islands)
"Fedarko's effortlessly engaging narrative... is a labor of passion from an adventurous journalist who still calls the Grand Canyon home." (Boulder Weekly)
"Powerful and poetic passages put readers inside the adventurers' boats, even if they have only ever imagined the Grand Canyon or seen it in pictures... an epic-sized true-life adventure tale that appeals to both the heart and the head." (Kirkus)
"Kevin Fedarko's magnificent book covers a lot of ground -- and water... So it is a great boon of Fedarko's book that he tells the story of the dam, and of the engineers and techinicians who built it... with as much respect and homage as he gives to the dorymen." (Cleveland Plain-Dealer)
"Grua's wild ride on the Colorado, how it mirrored his mercurial personality, is just on part of Fedarko's story; however, the rive, which runs through seven states, and the canyon, rich in both geological and political history, prove to be the real protagonists." (Publisher's Weekly)
About the Author
Kevin Fedarko lives in northern New Mexico and works as a part-time river guide in Grand Canyon National Park. In addition to his travel narratives in Outside, where he worked as a senior editor, Fedarko’s work has appeared in Esquire, National Geographic Adventure, and other publications, and has been anthologized in The Best American Travel Writing in 2004 and 2006. Fedarko was a staff writer at Time magazine from 1991 to 1997, where his work helped garner an Overseas Press Club Award for a story on the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Fedarko earned a Masters of Philosophy in Russian history at Oxford in 1990.
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Or a sentence such as, 'They emerged slowly, popping out one by one, and then they all came in a rush, spilling out of the ether until the narrow ribbon of sky about was no longer speckled with isolated motes but was a milky torrent, alive with the eddies and whirlpools, a millrace of planets and stars whose combined translucence defined the ragged line of the canyon's twinned rims with such clarity, such crystalline precision, that anyone looking up could not help but gasp at what had been unveiled.'
I would hate to say that it is poor writing but I have never come across such intentionally obtuse vocabulary and phrases. Most people give this 5 stars, so this style of writing appeals to many but not me.
This book captures all of the thrills, excitement and history of that wonderful experience. We had five guides on the trip, all of whom were extremely knowledgeable and at night we sat by the campfires and learned about many of the stories contained in this account.
In many respects, I was torn over leaving the canyon. Except that I had a wife and two little kids, I would've loved to sign on as a guide on the river trips. Had I taken the trip before I was married, I really believe I might have ended up a River Rat on the Colorado River.
The book joins the other great Grand Canyon books in my library:
The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons (Penguin Classics); who can ever forget a one-armed war hero hanging from a tree branch over the raging river -- did they really think they could run a railroad down that massive gorge?
Grand Obsession: Harvey Butchart and the Exploration of Grand Canyon, an obsessively grand account of the treasures and the appeal of this magical place: pink rattlesnakes, busy beavers, thunderstorms whose rain evaporates before it hits the ground, a river that gets stronger and stronger upstream as it flows down the canyon at Separation Point (it evaporates as it flows), perfect little gardens, one after the other, as one ascends or descends the trails, and much, much more.
The Man Who Walked Through Time: The Story of the First Trip Afoot Through the Grand Canyon, by Colin Fletcher, the man who introduced me to backpacking and hiking in general and who has furnished us with the wonderfully practical The Complete Walker IV. My favorite Fletcher tale: he was lazing about in bed with a young lady in a motel, and she formed a tent with her feet: "Ah, look, we are camping out."
There is a long extract from this book at the "Outside Magzine" website; this extract will give you a flavor of the book itself:
"That spring and summer, the river was especially furious, unpredictable, and deadly. Massive, rapid snowmelt from an epic western winter was straining the capacity of Glen Canyon's mammoth concrete arch dam, completed in 1966, which regulated the flow of water into the Grand Canyon. By early June, Glen was holding back the runoff from 108,000 square miles, a region that included four western states. Failure of the dam's enormous spillway tunnels was a serious possibility; to prevent it, federal officials took a series of extraordinary measures, at one point increasing the release of water to 92,000 cubic feet per second, the biggest torrent the canyon had seen in 25 years. But the runoff was something else, too: a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience, in the most direct and visceral way imaginable, the ancestral majesty of what was once the wildest river in America.
"The central figure in this escapade was Grua, a 33-year-old boatman who worked for the revered founder of Grand Canyon Dories, Martin Litton. Grua, who died in 2002 at 52, was the ultimate river rat, a compact, supremely fit man with an eccentric streak that was balanced by an encyclopedic knowledge of the mysterious physics of the Colorado's notorious rapids. Before his death, he gave a series of interviews to a friend and fellow guide named Lew Steiger, who was able to record Grua's memories of the speed run and his impressions of the men he rowed with."
This wonderful account of the Colorado River and the dories and the people who have enjoyed the experience so much brings all those memories flooding back.
Read this fine book and get a glimmer of the magic that resides in the Colorado River.
Robert C Ross
Of course, a book about a handmade wooden rowboat ought to have a decent to-scale drawing of the boat, or even a comparison to an equivalent modern drift boat. The book has neither.
It loses another star because the use of twenty-dollar words is crazy past any point, purpose or precision. An example from page 141:
"... Kenton Grua was so bald that his skull looked like a wind-blasted billiard ball, yet his shoulders supported a peltry of back hair that could have doubled as a shag rug."
Kenton could be said to look like a wind-blasted wookie, but he's only missing the hair on the very front of his forehead; the rest sports an impressively shaggy mane.
A billiard ball his head is not.
If you are looking for an adventure book, you will be disappointed. It was about Chapter 17 before this book became what I wanted it to be. However, I’m giving the book five stars because what I expected the book to be has no bearing on what the book IS.
It is a well-researched book that includes more background than I believe I have ever read in one book. The author paints every wall of the Grand Canyon and every sluice of the Colorado River. I am a history buff, so I did enjoy the slow chapters and the background, but I’m also a patient reader. Impatient readers should skip the book or at least skip to Chapter 17…
By the time I neared the end of the book, I had so much time invested in it, I actually got emotional when the Emerald Mile made its speed-run and triumphed. For hours upon hours, the book builds slowly, starts rumbling like a volcano, spits some lava and then BOOM! But it takes some time to get to the boom. I don’t recommend this book to light-readers. Still, the author did five-star work.