This was quite different. An enormous gulf was between me and the world. This was a different universe – withered, desert, lifeless; a fantastic universe where the presence of man was not foreseen, perhaps not desired. – Maurice Herzog, Annapurna
Fifty-eight years before Christopher McCandless hiked into Alaska to find himself (but died before completing the process…), 20-year old Everett Ruess wandered through the forbidding and desolate south central and southern Utah backcountry and disappeared. A hunter found Christopher’s body, but Everett was never found, though people have been searching for him ever since he vanished. There were a few tantalizing clues: Everett’s two mules were found tied up at a site where he’d camped; in a letter to his parents he wrote: As to when I shall visit civilization, it will not be soon, I think – and the name Nemo was discovered scratched into rock in several places. Nemo (“no man” in Latin) was the name Everett took to calling himself. Ugly rumors circulated through the town in which he was last seen – some thought that Everett was murdered by cattle rustlers. He might have fallen from a cliff or gotten trapped in a slot canyon. Or maybe he just wanted to disappear.
I read about Everett a while back. It’s just the kind of story that fascinates me. I don’t have a risk-taker bone in my body, but I’m drawn to the lonely canyons, the red rock and slick rock, the twisted junipers, the colorful arches, fins, hoodoos and searing blue skies of southern Utah. Combine that with a real life mystery and I’m hooked like a Lake Erie Walleye. Kel and I spent Christmas in the thin air of Boulder without realizing until later that we were in Everett country. Boulder and sort-of nearby Escalante were Everett’s last known stomping grounds. He disappeared into the massive Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument which encompasses a mere 1,880,461 acres of pitiless landscape. It’s no wonder his remains were never found.
In addition to hiking in the Boulder area, we made our slow way home via Kodachrome Basin and Bryce Canyon. One huge advantage Kel and I have discovered about traveling here in the winter is that there are few other fools willing to do so. It’s possible to have stunning trails and sprawling National Parks all to one’s self (with the exception of Bryce Canyon which was teeming with visitors. At 7 degrees Fahrenheit accompanied by a bone-chilling wind, it was an astounding sight to see cars lined up at the entrance point.) Below are some pictures from our trip.
One Year Ago Today: Basic Seitan