More travels in the Southwest of yore by outdoorsman/writer Roberts (Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration, 2013, etc.).
There’s a place in southern Utah, not far from the Grand Canyon and closer still to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Canyonlands, where, before 2002, the author had never been—unusual, since he’s scrambled up and down most of the rugged terrain in the Four Corners states over the last four decades or so. Interestingly, most of his “desert-rat cronies” hadn’t been there, either. More interestingly still, as he chronicles here, neither had many ancient people, save for a few outlier Kayenta Anasazi from down south who eventually “gave up on Kaiparowits…[and] returned to their homeland.” Roberts, a keen student of the region’s anthropology, takes time to wonder why, noting that in the last 15 years, interest has grown, with ever more sophistication in our understanding of the many ethnic and cultural groups that contributed to regional prehistory and their far-flung network of connections. Roberts also traveled nearby to the hidden lattice of canyons where vast numbers of Fremont Culture remains were recently formally cataloged, having been “protected by a single private owner” instead of the complex of laws surrounding what are called “cultural resources.” The author journeyed to places that have been overrun and ransacked by private collectors and protected, if sometimes too late, by the long arm of federal authority. Throughout, Roberts does two things: He stands on the land himself, affording armchair travelers a fine view of the place, and he scours vast stacks of scholarly literature to give us an up-to-date take on the minefield that is historical interpretation, with scholars coming just short of blows over angels-on-pinheads sorts of questions. Credit the author for including plenty of interesting photos, as well.
For fans of all things Southwestern—not quite as robust and thoughtful as Craig Childs’ House of Rain (2007) but a pleasure to read.