Reading: Desert Solitaire

Desert Solitaire is about a park ranger at the Arches National Monument in Utah during April through September. This landscape is described as a dry desert with canyons and ridges away from city and people. Here he was free to do whatever he liked, it is Edward Abbey’s happy place, kinda spiritual. He viewed nature as a place to get away and reflect in peace. This place he was at is a national park that he believes we need to reserve for everyone to get to experience the great wilderness. In his third summer as a park ranger tourism became big at his park, vehicles filled the park with people which Edward hated he believed this was the wrong way to experience the park. It also made him made because this interrupted his peace and quiet that he loved. I wonder if the people came in on foot and were there to enjoy the park if he would have been so mad or if he just didn’t like all the people there in general. Another thing that really made him unhappy was the building of the Glen Canyon Dam he says it is a sin to build it just for the sake of greed. I have mixed feelings about this because I believe we should build things like dams if they benefit us, but he believes that we should leave the nature alone and untouched.

One thing I didn’t like about this book is he was all over the place and told a lot of off topic stories in the book that tended to bore me. One thing I thought was strange and kinda cool was how he had a flashlight, but he never used it unless he was in threat because he loved the darkness so much and wanted it to be left natural with no man made lights being used. He actually says, “There’s another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him. If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light which it makes in front of me; I am isolated. Leaving the flashlight in my pocket where it belongs, I remain a part of the environment I walk through and my vision though limited has no sharp or definite boundary” this is a unique way to look at a flashlight, a lot of people would not say a flashlight is a disadvantage at night.

Overall I liked this book and since I want to be in the field of a park ranger when I am older I thought it brought up some things I never thought about. Like the actual National parks themselves and how their plans and techniques. He thinks they destroy the wilderness instead of preserve them by putting campgrounds and all these sites were people come and trash the area. He has to retrieve a 60 year old man who passed away because of the conditions, also he almost dies at one point in the canyon and still loves the park because of all the wilderness it brings and adventure while respecting it and knowing the danger.


Interesting Quotes:

“I am pleased enough with surfaces — in fact they alone seem to me to be of much importance. Such things for example as the grasp of a child’s hand in your own, the flavor of an apple, the embrace of friend or lover, the silk of a girl’s thigh, the sunlight on rock and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind — what else is there? What else do we need?”

“As the desert offers no tangible riches, as there is nothing to see or hear in the desert:

“I awake before sunrise, stick my head out of the sack, peer through a frosty window at a scene dim and vague with flowing mists, dark fantastic shapes looming beyond. An unlikely landscape.”

“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?”

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