I had not heard of Everett Ruess before promoting the thought that
“The secret to youth is to fill your mind with beauty.” Then, a
friend sent this book containing his letters my way. At first, I was disappointed reading what a seemed a laundry list of mundane items requested from his family by a youth seeking truth. He wandered up the coast of California from his home in Hollywood. A casual interest emerged as I live in Los Angeles and have frequented many of the places described eloquently by this artist on the move. Soon I became engaged by his reflections upon places he observed in the 1930,s that are now part of our National Parks. When he arrived at Yosemite he became as jubilant as the ecstatic John Muir describing the “Range of Light.” But, his poetic and lyrical descriptions of the southwest deserts, vermillion buttes and purple canyons are what placed me squarely in his camp of admirers. Even Edward Abbey, our most revered chronicler of the desert beauty, held Everett the young wanderer with “the crazy lust to probe the heart” in esteem. For me Everret’s words were like an arrow finding its mark. Even though his voice was that of a young man with a bit too much disdain for poor working stiffs with no imagination in their life, he was generous to all he met. I am so pleased I met Everett through this collection of letters published in 1940 and cherish the connection with a kindred spirit so willing to do without, so that he might sing the wilderness song.
Always I shall be the one who loved the wilderness
Swaggered and softly crept between the mountain peaks,
I shall listen long to the sea’s brave music:
I shall sing my song above the shriek of desert winds – Everett Ruess
After five years of wandering, at the age of 24, Everett went missing in 1934. His last letter gave no indication that he did not intend to return from explorations in Davis Gulch now flooded by Lake Powell. It is left for us to conjecture why his body was never found.