No matter how well-mapped the world seems to be, explorers remain intrepid. In The Way Out, Colorado writer Craig Childs writes about how he and his traveling companion, Dirk Vaughan, found their way through a desert on the Navajo Indian Reservation in southern Utah.
and Vaughan seem to crave the harsh truths of the stripped-down
desert. "Human populations have been sudden and brief in this
place," writes Childs, "the archaic nomads hunting bighorns and
rabbits five, eight thousand years ago; the Anasazi in the eleventh
and twelfth centuries … Dirk and me today, seeking refuge
against these histories and our own."
Childs uses the
vacant landscape and the weight of its past as a backdrop for his
own memories and philosophical wanderings. He describes the
desert’s overwhelming desolation and recalls enigmatic and
tragic moments in both his and his friend’s lives.
Childs’ recollections involve his father, and alternate
between soulful memories of tending campfires to drunken fistfights
between father and son. Vaughan, on the other hand, remembers his
hardboiled life as a cop in Denver, telling tales of fear and doubt
and how he attempted to sort through the muck of society.
Something of a mystic, Childs finds hidden patterns in the barren
architecture of the Utah desert, weaving together his disparate
narratives, and finding another pattern in childhood memories and
The Way Out: A True Story of
Ruin and Survival
pages, hardcover $23.95: Little, Brown and Company, 2005
Head games in the hot, hot desert
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