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Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer Hardcover – July 19, 2011
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“Finding Everett Ruess is easily one of [Roberts’] best….thoughtful and passionate….a compelling portrait of the Ruess myth.” -Outside Magazine
“Anyone intrigued by the Ruess phenomenon will be enthralled with Roberts’ review of the young man’s biography, the stature of his artistic achievements and unrealized potential, and efforts to find and eventually memorialize him…. This is sure to appeal to fans of wilderness wanderers.” -Booklist
"Absorbing...A [well researched], readable look at a complex personality in wilderness exploration." -Kirkus Reviews
"Everett Lives! If not in a desert canyon, then at least among the pages where David Roberts brings the young man's life and legend all together: his writings and art, his kinship with nature, his love for adventure and beauty, and the yet-evolving mystery of his disappearance. Count me one among many inspired by a young adventurer who lived in beauty and left us too soon. May we never stop wandering."
-Aron Ralston, author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place and subject of the film 127 Hours
"Roberts deftly..captures the complexity of his subject."
“I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the street car and the star sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities. . . .
"Say that I starved; that I was lost and weary;
That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun;
Footsore, thirsty, sick with strange diseases;
Lonely and wet and cold . . . but that I kept my dream!"
About the Author
DAVID ROBERTS is the author of more than 20 books on mountaineering, adventure, and history, including No Shortcuts to the Top, K2, and The Will to Climb, which he co-wrote with Ed Viesturs and a memoir On The Ridge Between Life and Death. He has written for National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and Smithsonian. Roberts lives in Massachusetts.
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Everett Reuss lit out for the wilds of Utah and Arizona as a teenager as an aesthete and an aspiring artist. His journal has inspired the legend that has built his cult status. With a burro, and a dog, he solely traversed some of the most barren of lands, and some of the densest. Certainly, also some of the most beautiful.
The first half of the book deals with what is known of his life. Aside from his incomplete journal, not much. The author has found some people still alive as of the late 2000's who knew Mr. Reuss in the early 1930's. Mr. Reuss tried to be self-sustaining, living off the land, and buying whatever supplies he needed from sales of his art. He covered amazing amounts of ground, hiking obscure trails, and befriending non-hostile Indian tribes.
The second part of the book deals with his disappearance, and an eighty year search for his body, and the questions surrounding his presumed death. As a precursor to Elvis Pressley, there are the myriad stories that he survived, and lived to an old age. There are numerous blind alleys that turned up. Rumors of people who killed him. Stories of being ambushed by Utes. DNA that turned out not to be his of bodies found.
As a cult figure, Reuss is obscure, yet has a fanatical following. He is a strange subject for a hard core following. It was an interesting read. And most likely, a difficult researching project to undertake. A lot of conjecture was necessary.
A quirky, if interesting read.
In 1934, just before his 21 birthday, he set out from the town of Escalante, Utah, heading south. The land to the south of this town is rugged and unforgiving, and in the 1930s, it was even more isolated than today. There were few true roads, and far less people or tourists than there are today. This was one of the most isolated places in America. Everett was seen by shepherds a week later, and then disappeared. In the years to follow, he became a legend.
Most books about Ruess, even collections of his poems and letters, are cherry picked to find the most inspirational passages - sort of Thoreau meets Whitman. Roberts shows Ruess’ darker side. He could be misanthropic, racist, and impatient. His dark moods were as predominant as his bright. He contemplated suicide. He was not always content with his wandering life. He was sometimes lonely.
He was a complicated young man, still growing and evolving as a person and artist. He sought to translate the vast and beautiful landscapes to Utah and Arizona into words and pictures; a difficult task he often did successfully. Everett Ruess is an appealing character. So much of Everett is known, but more is a mystery. We never feel we get a handle on his complicated young man. And then he disappeared into the same desert he loved, leaving scant evidence of his fate. Roberts examines the theories that have evolved over the years.
I am not surprised the Ruess most likely died somewhere in the Escalante region of Utah. I was there recently, and it appears to be an excellent place for a fatal accident, or deadly misjudgment. Despite Everett's experience with solo travel, solo travel in the desert is a risky venture. In such an unforgiving land, a lone person is often a step or a fall away from death. The land conspires against a person's efforts to manage their destiny. For me, I’m glad we have not found any further evidence of Ruess’ fate; we need idealists like him. We need heroes and mystery and legends.