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Grand Obsession: Harvey Butchart and the Exploration of Grand Canyon Paperback – August 1, 2007
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"Butler and Myers do wonders with this book, taking what seems at first glance a prosaic subject, and fashioning it into a fascinating portrait of a man hopelessly addicted to a place." -- 2008 National Outdoor Book Awards, which named Grand Obsession a winner in the History/Biography category.
"Of all the Grand Canyon books out there, this one stands alone as a classic work showcasing man and nature at their best." -- Lynn Arave, The Deseret Morning News
"Through Butchart's experiences, readers get a feel for how impressive, humbling, unforgiving and fascinating this place is. Read it." -- Amy Maesta, Inside/Outside Southwest
"There's a special word for finding your own way around the Grand Canyon without following established trails: "butcharting," an homage to Harvey Butchart." -- Susan Spano, The Los Angeles Times
"Written by two other Canyon explorers, with personal accounts of their efforts to follow in Butchart's footsteps, this story of a remarkable life transcends biography and becomes gripping adventure." -- Pima County Library and Arizona Historical Society, which named "Grand Obsession" a 2007 Southwest Book of the Year.
"The book is well written and the story of Harvey's life is extremely interesting. I highly recommend this book!" -- Denise Traver, former NPS ranger and author of hitthetrail, a Grand Canyon website.
"Harvey Butchart, the man who has walked over more of the Grand Canyon than any other alive or dead..." --Edward Abbey, writing in his journal at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 1969 --Ed Abbey
"Nobody knew the Grand Canyon better than Harvey Butchart did. Now comes our chance to better know Butchart, the enigmatic hiker-explorer who is regarded as the father of American desert canyoneering. "Grand Obsession: Harvey Butchart and the Exploration of Grand Canyon," by Elias Butler and Tom Myers, tells the story of this mild-mannered math professor who turned tenacious below the canyon's rims - logging 12,000 miles on foot, blazing dozens of new routes from rim to river and notching 28 first recorded ascents of buttes and other formidable formations in the canyon's torrid interior. He wrote three famously cryptic backcountry guidebooks that helped cement his status among canyon aficionados as part Superman, part Yoda." --Joe Hudson, The Denver Post
"Harvey Butchart was the legendary hiker and canyoneer who explored more of the Grand Canyon than any other person. He was largely known through his sparse and somewhat cryptic hiking guidebooks. But even more cryptic was Butchart himself. Who was this man, and why did his interest in the canyon become an obsession that consumed his life? You'll find out in this uncommonly well researched, well-structured and well-written biography." --2008 2008 National Outdoor Book Awards web site
About the Author
Elias Butler is a writer and photographer living in Flagstaff, Arizona. Butler has written for Backpacker, National Geographic Adventure, The Fretboard Journal, the Las Vegas-Review Journal and the Arizona Daily Sun. Butler's photography has been published in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Arizona Highways, and Backpacker . This is his first book.
At age 19, Tom Myers began celebrating the dawning of each new year by hiking in the Grand Canyon. It is a tradition he and his wife continue to share with their three children. He has co-authored two previous Canyon books, Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon (with Michael Ghiglieri) and Fateful Journey (with Larry Stevens and Chris Becker).
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Top customer reviews
A slight, mild-mannered math professor, Harvey Butchart was also a tireless explorer of and "route-finder" for the Grand Canyon, blazing new trails within the Canyon and recording his findings in personal logs and published guide-books.
But, we also get a first-hand look at the "dark" side of Harvey's obession, especially the chasm it cleaved between Harvey and his wife, Roma. Harvey's story clearly shows there is indeed a price to pay for the single-minded pursuit of one's passion. His success comes at a price, not only to himself but to those closest to him; including once with tragic results.
Along the way, the authors also guide the reader through many side paths, to include fascinating bits of Grand Canyon lore and profiles of the people whose exploits are legend among Canyon devotees. They are all here... hikers, climbers, river runners and swimmers, the seekers and the hangers-on and just plain adventurers. A colorful array of characters, many who seemed happiest and most fulfilled when they were living "below the Rim" and on the edge.
I first heard of Harvey Butchart in Colin Fletcher's excellent "The Man Who Walked Through Time".
Fletcher rates his own chapter in "Grand Obession" and rightly so. I recommend both books.
I never knew the man behind the legend as Harvey did not say much about himself when giving presentations or in conversations after hiking club meetings. I did not think through how much time he had to spend gaining his incredible knowledge of the canyon. I never knew he had children. I had yet to think about how a person balances their time between hobbies, activities, marriage and family. My "grand obsession" was my career, which involved a few thousand hours of unpaid overtime trying to solve every problem and trying to gain the best knowledge of the land I was assigned to.
Now in retirement I've just finished reading "Grand Obsession." Now after four decades since meeting Harvey Butchart I've now gotten to know the man. This book is incredible! The research and depth of this biography is not only incredibly complete but written in a manner that you don't want to put it down. I either met or knew of so many of the people mentioned in the book. I've heard from others and at times from Harvey, many of the stories the authors relate. While reading the book I felt like I was returning to my time in Flagstaff, taking many of the hikes I wanted to take, but could not because of school demands and starting a demanding career. There are many places where I followed Harvey's footsteps that I assume the authors did not, gaining their knowledge of them via Butchart's logs and from interviews with the hundreds of people they sought out. Their descriptions are accurate causing me to think about places, times and people I haven't recalled for almost four decades.
I never knew the entire story of Harvey Butchart and the trade offs he made to the detriment of his family and marriage. I related to the costs of having an obsession. Looking back I wonder how he found the time to share so much time for his students given the time it took for him to explore so much of the canyon. The authors covered this very well as they not only described his travels well but the waning years of his life as well, after age prevented him from visiting the canyon anymore.
The only criticism I have of the book is the portion where the authors outline the "Canyon's Grip" on other individuals, especially that of George Mancuso. This chapter explained how others were bitten by the bug of the Grand Canyon as if to explain that Harvey wasn't the only person to have an obsession, however, I did not find it valuable in learning about Harvey Butchart's life.
All in all, this is one of the best books occupying space on my bookshelves. For people with an active interest in what lies below the rim of this magnificent canyon, I recommend this book as a way of finding out.