Magazine article Sunset

Six Recent Books on the "Spiritual Heart of the West."

Magazine article Sunset

Six Recent Books on the "Spiritual Heart of the West."

Article excerpt

Six recent books on the "spiritual heart of the West'

If the West possesses one spiritual heart,it may lie in the Colorado Plateau, 130,000 acres that spread over Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico and take in such wonders as Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef national parks, and the Green and Colorado rivers. In its rugged terrain, its mineral wealth, its aridity, and most of all in its profligate beauty, the Colorado Plateau is perhaps the West at its most pure.

Recently released are an assortment ofgood books on the plateau, both new volumes and paperback reissues of some classics long out of print. If you're planning a trip to the plateau's parks or down its rivers, they may inspire you. If you're not, they may change your mind.

Land of Living Rock and Standing UpCountry, both by C. Gregory Crampton (Peregrine Smith Books, Layton, Utah, 1985; $19.95 and $12.75, respectively; $32.70 for a boxed set of both). It's difficult to overpraise these books, first published in the 1960s and now reprinted in paperback, that together give you as thorough and vital a portrait of the Colorado Plateau--its geology, and natural and human history--as can be found anywhere.

Land of Living Rock focuses on theGrand Canyon and its surrounding high plateaus; Standing Up Country leads you north and east into the slickrock wilderness cut by the Paria, the Escalante, the Dirty Devil, and the San Rafael rivers. Along with them you'll meet Utes and Navajos, Spanish explorers, Latter Day Saints pioneers, geologists, archeologists, ranchers, gold miners, and the occasional desperado.

A Canyon Voyage, by Frederick S. Dellenbaugh(University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1984; $9.95). On May 21, 1871, Major John Wesley Powell pushed off on his second voyage down the Green and Colorado rivers. With him were 10 fellow adventurers, among them artist and writer Dellenbaugh, who in 1908 published this stirring account of their adventures. Though the one-armed Major Powell had viewed this country two years earlier, much remained unknown, and Dellenbaugh's account relays all the excitement of venturing into a blank patch on the map. Theirs was a scientific-minded expedition, and a civilized one: during the day they gathered fossils and mineral specimens and attempted accurate measurements of mountains and canyons; and at night they entertained themselves around the campfire with readings of Hiawatha. Powell himself was fond of singing "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton' while at the oars, ceasing only when the Colorado's rapids boiled too furiously. …

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