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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
Butchart only started hiking the canyon when he was 38 years old and moved to its region. It presented one challenge after another; he might have to bushwhack through a disused trial, float down a river, ascend sheer cliffs, or raise himself up scorching buttes. The almost photographic memory he used when he did mathematics was also put to work on the trial, so that he could remember routes long after he had trekked them. However, he took to documenting each hike he made, obsessively typing up a description once he returned home. He remained extremely fit, and as supervisor of the college hiking club, he found he had to take care so that he would not leave his students, less than half his age, in the dust. He was hard on himself. "You aren't really living if you don't risk your life once every six months," he wrote, and he was only half joking. Butler and Myers examine at length the effects of his hiking on his wife. Roma had no interest in hiking and had disdain for the fellow hikers who would visit her husband. She was able to have a truce when Butchart kept to schedule and made it home for bridge games and other activities Roma needed. Butchart had to slow down as he aged, although the slowing was very long in coming. After he had done his last hikes, there was a reconnection and delight in his relationship with Roma, and after she died in 2002, he was heartbroken and followed her just a couple of months later.
Butchart's fame is assured, not because he had so many firsts in climbing and hiking the canyon (although these are considerable), but because of the three volumes of _Grand Canyon Treks_ he produced, going from the logbook notes he made after a hike and turning them into trail guides for others to follow. Butler and Myers are devoted to the books and use them often (even on a hike to Wotan's Throne, a butte that was a particular favorite of Butchart, to put his and Roma's ashes there). "Although a casual hiker could use _Treks_ to negotiate the beaten paths, Harvey presents the trails as mere frames upon which to drape the more exciting information, his routes that lead into the wild. _Treks_ thus introduced the sport of canyoneering to a generation of eager practitioners." Butchart was not unappreciative of the beauty of the canyon, but his guidebooks reflect his priorities, getting out there, getting to a goal, and getting there in time, rather than pointing out the sights. What he thought was important about his life is in those books. _Grand Obsession_ contains wonderful pictures of the canyon and Butchart at work in it, and is engagingly written even for people that don't have anything like a devotion to hiking. It is a full and admiring portrait of a remarkable, flawed man who blazed a trail, thousands of trails.
Lucky you, the authors are the exact opposite of the subject at hand. Virtually any question you may have about Harvey is answered. It's everything you need to know presenting intense facts along the way. Symbolic childhood moments decipher the psyche. Fun adventures to those that turned sour are interweaved with mini profiles of those that affected his life most. Personal and sometimes appalling tidbits make it real. Never before nor will I ever likely read another book this size, I just wish this one was bigger!
I met Dr. Butchart 35 years ago when I took his Algebra course at Northern Arizona University. He was a challenging professor (the best kind!), and as a young hiker and beginning Canyoneer, I was in awe of his Canyon reputation. I didn't get to know him beyond class. In subsequent years and after many off-trail and below-the-rim miles attempting to follow his terse guides, I was mystified as to who he really was. Thanks to Butler and Meyers, I have finally come to know him. And what a great arm-chair adventure getting to "know him" has been!
"Grand Obsession" is not only a fine addition to the ever enlarging literature of the Grand Canyon, it is a fittingly great biography of a little known but great western explorer.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A slight, mild-mannered math professor, Harvey Butchart was also a...Read more