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KLIATTOn one hand, this is an inspiring and exciting tale of two experienced outdoorsmen who deliberately set out to hike across some of the most broken and difficult wilderness terrain in North America. Amid scenes of awe-inspiring beauty, they pit their bravery and endurance skills against an arid hell of trackless chasms, treacherous rocks, and venomous creatures. Throughout this survival epic they reach deeply into their troubled psyches: one mulls over his lifelong antipathy toward a domineering father; the other is trying to come to grips with the people he has harmed in the line of duty. They emerge weary, triumphant, and perhaps a little more at peace with themselves. Perhaps. On the other hand, the book can be read simply as the story of two angst-ridden and desert-punchy loners who set out to overcome an impassible wilderness, for no reason that the reader can ever discern. Most of their inner demons remain intact at the end of their journey, making one wonder if the trek was really necessary at all. Either way, Craig Childs presents us with an awesome corner of primeval America, a colorful panorama of raw nature still untouched in this urbanized century. The author's occasional forays into aboriginal mysticism seem a little overdone, especially an incident concerning a skull in the sand, and his relationships with the native Indians are painfully self-conscious. But he also delivers a strong environmental message, demonstrates his genuine respect for the outdoors he loves, and shows how he comes to grips with it. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Little, Brown, Back Bay, 270p., Ages 15 to adult.