Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer

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Overview

Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts, with a foreword by Jon Krakauer, is the definitive biography of the artist, writer, and eloquent celebrator of the wilderness whose bold solo explorations of the American West and mysterious disappearance in the Utah desert at age 20 have earned him a large and devoted cult following. More than 75 years after his vanishing, Ruess stirs the kinds of passion and speculation accorded such legendary doomed ...

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Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer

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Overview

Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts, with a foreword by Jon Krakauer, is the definitive biography of the artist, writer, and eloquent celebrator of the wilderness whose bold solo explorations of the American West and mysterious disappearance in the Utah desert at age 20 have earned him a large and devoted cult following. More than 75 years after his vanishing, Ruess stirs the kinds of passion and speculation accorded such legendary doomed American adventurers as Into the Wild’s Chris McCandless and Amelia Earhart.
 
“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.”  So Everett Ruess wrote in his last letter to his brother. And earlier, in a valedictory poem, ”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!" 
                                             

Wandering alone with burros and pack horses through California and the Southwest for five years in the early 1930s, on voyages lasting as long as ten months, Ruess also became friends with photographers Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange, swapped prints with Ansel Adams, took part in a Hopi ceremony, learned to speak Navajo, and was among the first "outsiders" to venture deeply into what was then (and to some extent still is) largely a little-known wilderness.  

When he vanished without a trace in November 1934, Ruess left behind thousands of pages of journals, letters, and poems, as well as more than a hundred watercolor paintings and blockprint engravings. A Ruess mystique, initiated by his parents but soon enlarged by readers and critics who, struck by his remarkable connection to the wild, likened him to a fledgling John Muir. Today, the Ruess cult has more adherents—and more passionate ones—than at any time in the seven-plus decades since his disappearance. By now, Everett Ruess is hailed as a paragon of solo exploration, while the mystery of his death remains one of the greatest riddles in the annals of American adventure. David Roberts began probing the life and death of Everett Ruess for National Geographic Adventure magazine in 1998. Finding Everett Ruess is the result of his personal journeys into the remote areas explored by Ruess, his interviews with oldtimers who encountered the young vagabond and with Ruess’s closest living relatives, and his deep immersion in Ruess’s writings and artwork.  It is an epic narrative of a driven and acutely perceptive young adventurer’s expeditions into the wildernesses of landscape and self-discovery, as well as an absorbing investigation of the continuing mystery of his disappearance. 

In this definitive account of Ruess's extraordinary life and the enigma of his vanishing, David Roberts eloquently captures Ruess's tragic genius and ongoing fascination.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
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."
-Publishers Weekly

“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!"
-Everett Ruess

Kate Tuttle
…David Roberts's compelling, humane book about the young adventurer, seeks to replace hagiography with explanation, pondering "a riddle that has no parallel in the history of the American West." As he explores the Ruess myth and reality, Roberts leaves us with great sympathy for this lost boy and especially for his family, who never stopped believing he might someday return.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this exhaustive biography, Roberts (No Shortcuts to the Top) retraces the life and disappearance of Everett Ruess in 1934. A young artist and adventurer, Ruess left home in Los Angeles at 16 and spent most of the following four years traveling alone through the remotest regions of the American West. He chronicled his adventures in letters, journals, and watercolors, and soon after he vanished in the backcountry of southern Utah, a legend grew around the handsome and troubled wanderer. Roberts deftly recounts the development of Ruess's celebrity and the controversies that continue to surround the mystery of his death. As a biographer, Roberts faced a difficult task: Ruess was not well-known in his lifetime, and the extensive gaps in his own accounts of his travels are only sparsely supplemented by the testimonies of those he encountered. This lack of evidence added fuel to the legend, and Roberts spends a great deal of time examining theories about Ruess—especially the claim that he was both gay and suicidal. Roberts's thoroughness leads to tedium at times, but his approach captures the complexity of his subject. (July)
Kirkus Reviews

The absorbing story of wilderness explorer Everett Ruess, who has gained a cult-like following since his disappearance in 1934.

In adventure writer Roberts' (The Last of His Kind: The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America's Boldest Mountaineer, 2010) latest, the author examines the life of Ruess, who was born in 1914 to caring, if over-involved parents. From a young age, he was fascinated with nature. At 16, he set off on the first of his expeditions, hitchhiking from Los Angeles to Carmel, then moving on to Big Sur. Roberts depicts Ruess as intelligent but somewhat naïve, and completely unable to support himself. He became increasingly dependent on his cash-strapped parents to fund his wanderings, and his sense of entitlement deepened over the course of his short life. The author relies on Ruess' surviving letters and journals to paint a portrait of the explorer, and they reveal a moody, pensive and often troubled young man who had a disdain for sedentary life: "I don't think I could ever settle down. I have known too much of the depths of life already, and I would prefer anything to an anticlimax." The second half of the book delves into the possible fate of the explorer, presenting readers with four possible outcomes: suicide, murder, accidental death or withdrawal into hiding. Roberts explores each of these avenues thoroughly, providing both sides of each argument before laying out his own investigation. Though readers may be left with niggling doubts—Roberts chronicles many hoaxes with regards to Ruess' disappearance—in the end, he makes a convincing case.

A well-researched, readable look at a complex personality in wilderness exploration.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307591777
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 268,891
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

Foreword Jon Krakauer xi

Author's Note xv

Prologue 3

Part 1 The Desire to Live

1 "I Have Given the Wind My Pledge" 13

2 "I Have Been One Who Loved the Wilderness" 37

3 "The Crazy Man Is in Solitude Again" 79

4 "I Go to Make My Destiny" 116

5 "I Have Seen More Beauty Than I Can Bear" 152

Part 2 Say that I Kept My Dream

6 Nemo 193

7 Desert Trails 218

8 Cult and Conundrum 234

9 "No Least Desire for Fame" 268

Part 3 What Aneth Saw

10 Jackass Bar 293

11 Comb Ridge 311

Epilogue: Happy Journeys 360

Acknowledgments 371

Note on Sources 379

Index 383

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    Really gets good at the end! With so much time spent fillng

    Really gets good at the end! With so much time spent fillng in the missing pieces to a story that will probably always have missing pieces it is somewhat difficult to follow.
    Still if there is a general intrest in the works of this author, this is another in a long line of excellent stories told from someone with first hand knowledge of the land.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Good story

    Not the best of John or Davids works but still an intersting story and one I had no familiarity with. It would have been great if......Well I can't say I dont want to spoil.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2013

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    Posted October 17, 2011

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    Posted October 4, 2011

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    Posted August 7, 2012

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    Posted August 13, 2011

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    Posted December 17, 2011

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    Posted September 7, 2011

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