‘Desert Solitaire’

— Edward Abbey

You might wonder what a book about the desert is doing on a backcountry skiing page, but there is much to be had for the traveler of any wilderness in Edward Abbey's book. Desert Solitaire is written, not without humor, for the masses, not merely for those who already know and cherish the wild. Abbey's mission here is not merely to preach to the choir, but rather to try to reach those who have perhaps never known the wilds he writes of.

Desert Solitaire - Edward Abbey

There is an essential connection between man and nature that we ourselves have severed, in our strivings to better our lives.

We've gained much in the effort, of course, including (in the developed world) a remarkable freedom from the plagues and parasites that tormented our ancestors. But we have lost a great deal in the bargain as well.

Abbey writes:

Do not jump in your automobile next June and rush out to the Canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages. In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe. Probably not.

In the second place most of what I write about in this book is already gone or going under fast. This is not a travel guide but an elegy. A memorial. You're holding a tombstone in your hands. A bloody rock. Don't drop it on your foot—throw it at something big and glassy. What do you have to lose?

Abbey's writing isn't for everyone. There's a subversive streak and a rejection of authority that will stop some readers cold in their tracks. But as an evocation of wilderness and in particular the way it can affect us, there is no better treatise on the planet.

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