The [canyons] are calling and I must go.
August 17, 2016 12:02 PM   Subscribe

What should we read/listen to as we hike and bike our way through Utah?

My partner and I are going on vacation in Utah's national parks region (mostly) and would like to load up the iPod with relevant reading/listening material so we can learn and be entertained as we go. We will be in Canyonlands, Bryce, Arches & Grand Canyon.

We are hoping to find engaging Bill Bryson-esque narratives and passionate John Muir-ish love letters and detailed Ken Burns-ian facts. (I have downloaded a pdf of Burns's National Parks section on Grand Canyon.)

What we're not interested in:*

- Blogs/first-person travelogues (Moth-type stories excepted)
- Photo-heavy content
- Polemic pieces about the parks' imminent destruction by human hands

What we are interested in:

- Regional/cultural/political history written by historians
- Info about the flora/fauna/landscape/climate written by naturalists/geologists
- Travel writing by researchers who have both knowledge of and reverence for what they're writing about

A pre-follow-up question is for anyone who knows the area well - we will have a vehicle so please share any recommendations for towns to stop in & walk around, get fresh food, enjoy some A/C, wander through thrift shops, take a pic of your childhood home for you, spend a bit of money locally, etc.

*If you can't stop yourself from recommending something along these lines because it's just that good, we will check it out before the trip.
posted by headnsouth to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's hard to beat John McPhee, and Basin and Range is relevant to that region if not to the parks specifically.
posted by enn at 12:52 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

With the caveat that these are both darker than what you requested, I can't stop myself from recommending, because they're both that good:

Desert Solitaire, or many things by Edward Abbey, are a must.

Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer.
posted by Dashy at 1:16 PM on August 17, 2016

Seconding Edward Abbey. Terry Tempest Williams also writes beautifully about the desert Southwest.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:42 PM on August 17, 2016

Best answer: Your question reminded me of this thread from 2013--a very similar question with many recommendations, you might want to take a look.

Reading through that, I was like, "Oh, yeah--here's a REALLY GOOD answer." And of course it was mine. So you will be happy to know that I still agree with myself. Here is a slightly edited version of that list. FYI my parents, grandparents, etc all grew up in this area and I have never lived there myself, but spent at least a few weeks nearly every year visiting, traveling, etc. Unfortunately, many of the above are not available on Kindle. To make up for it, some things that are: Mountain Meadows Massacre & Emma Lee by Juanita Brooks (both nonfiction), The 19th Wife, On Deadly Ground, On Desert Trails with Everett Ruess, The Slickrock Paradox, and A Study in Scarlet by A. Conan Doyle--which has a long section set in 1847 Utah Territory.

I recently came across this history of the Goshute Indians of Utah/Nevada (a bit northerly of where you'll be visiting, though) and you might find other helpful historical summaries of places and peoples on that same site. For example, history of the Navajos is very relevant to many of the places you'll be visiting.
posted by flug at 2:09 PM on August 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A few more. Unfortunately, many of the best are not available in electronic format, but I've marked that ones that are.
posted by flug at 2:44 PM on August 17, 2016

Best answer: As far as specific places to visit, my only thought is you might consider the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, as opposed to (or in addition to) the more famous and more often visited South Rim. The North Rim is more remote, has fewer visitors, generally less "touristy" and has a flavor all its own.

If you go that way, I highly suggest a stop at Pipe Spring--one of the first National Monuments and one of the best interpretive sites I've been to recently, as far as giving a good idea about what life was like in this region before the Mormon settlement and for the first 75 years or so after.

I recently visited there and nearby Moccasin, where my grandmother grew up. That was very interesting to me, especially because we got a personal tour of her childhood home, but I'm not sure it would be to a random person, unless you just like to see what very small, remote villages with no services or amenities look like. There is a monument to my ancestors at the corner of Main & Center Streets, the house my great-grandfather built (now on the National Register of Historic Places - you can see the plaque from the street easily) at the western end of Center Street, and some interesting pioneer artifacts in and around a nearby barn (also easily viewable from the street). There is probably some amazing hiking and possibly even mountain biking in the surrounding hills but you'd have to ask a local and/or just take your chances.

If you go this way, you'll probably also want to stop in at Colorado City, just to get a glimpse of one of the region's strangest sub-cultures. Read up here first.

Vermillion Cliffs Natl Monument is also in the area. Vast, remote, stunning scenery, relatively little known (in comparison with Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, etc), no services. Some hikes require a permit. More info here.

And the entire Arizona Strip area is one of the most remote and sparsely populated regions in the continental U.S., with many opportunities for exploration if you are intrepid and like vast arid landscapes.
posted by flug at 3:22 PM on August 17, 2016

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