Desert Solitaire

by Edward Abbey

"I put on a coat and step outside. Into the center of the world, God’s navel, Abbey’s country, the red wasteland."

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The Windows

"I walk out the foot trail to Double Arch and the Windows. The wind moans a dreary tune under the overhanging coves, among the holes in the rock, and through the dead pinyon pines. The sky is obscure and yellow but the air in this relatively sheltered place among the rocks is still clear."

Delicate Arch

"A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch has the curious ability to remind us—like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness—that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real."

Salt Valley

"The season is late—late summer on the high desert. The thunderstorms have been less frequent lately, the tumbleweeds are taking on the reddish tinge of their maturity, and the various grasses—bluestem, fescue, Indian ricegrass, grama grass—which flourished after the summer rains have ripened to a tawny brown; in the slanting light of morning and evening the far-off fields in Salt Valley, where these grasses are most abundant, shine like golden velvet."

Balanced Rock

"Somnolence—a heaviness in the air, a chill in the sunlight, an oppressive stillness in the atmosphere that hints of much but says nothing. The Balanced Rock and the pinnacles stand in petrified silence—waiting. The wildlife has withdrawn to the night, the flies and gnats have disappeared, a few birds sing, and the last of the flowers of summer—the globemallow—have died. What is it that’s haunting me? At times I hear voices up the road, familiar voices… I look; and no one is there."

Onion Spring

"Northeast of Moab in a region of gargoyles and hobgoblins, a landscape left over from the late Jurassic, is a peculiar little waterhole named Onion Spring. A few wild onions grow in the vicinity but more striking, in season, is the golden princess plume, an indicator of selenium, a mild poison often found in association with uranium, a poison not so mild."


"Dawn winds are driving streamers of snow off the peaks of the Sierra La Sal and old man Tukuhnikivats, mightiest of mountains in the land of Moab, will soon be stripped bare to the granite if this wind doesn’t stop. Blue scarves of snow flying in the wind twenty miles away—you wouldn’t want to be up there now, as they say out here, 13,000 feet above the sea, with only your spurs on."

Grandview Point

"Southwest, toward Grandview Point and The Maze, I can see V-shaped black wings in the lonely sky, soaring higher and higher against a yellow sunset. I think of the dead man under the juniper on the edge of the world, seeing him as the vulture would have seen him, far below and from a great distance. And I see myself through those cruel eyes."

Dead Horse Point

"Finally he was discovered ten days after the search began near an abandoned miner’s shack below Dead Horse Point. They found him sitting on the ground hammering feebly at an ancient can of beans, trying to open the can with a stone. Hospitalized for exposure, shock and malnutrition, he urged that the entrance to Cataract Canyon be somehow chained off, closed forever to human exploration."

Adapted from Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey
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