In southeastern Utah, a parched, ""unforgiving"" land valueless except ""to hold the world together,"" Zwinger prowls around the canyons of the San Juan River, jotting down impressions and expanding on chance finds in an accessible, one-to-one prose. ""Someone once characterized backpacking as the most miserable way he could think of of getting from Point A to Point B,"" and in these canyons nothing is soft, but Zwinger, a bantamweight, persists. She reflects on Anasazi remains in Grand Gulch; remembers the elegance, limestone steps, and lichens of Slickhorn Canyon (the lichens ""look like sandcastles built by children using Jello molds""); and notices with chagrin and some terror that a promised ""perfect pool"" is dry. Sand drifts over her sketch pad, the sound of a rattlesnake interrupts, two ravens raid the food supply, gorp and alt. Enhanced by numerous line drawings, it's a polished, highly informed journal which, in scanning historical predecessors, also anticipates future perplexities including the primitive area vs. wilderness dilemma.