David Roberts on Finding Everett Ruess

The title of this book carries a deliberate double meaning. Since 1998, when I first visited the Escalante country in a concerted effort to see if there was anything new that could be learned about the fate of Everett Ruess, I have cherished the hope that the passionate wilderness wanderer who disappeared so enigmatically in 1934, at the age of twenty, might actually be found. Or if the remains of his body could not be discovered, that enough clues could be ferreted out of the desert and the canyons so that we might be able to determine just how and where the young man met his untimely end.

I was hardly alone in that quest. During the more than seven decades that have elapsed since Everett vanished, all kinds of dedicated sleuths (and not a few mystical wackos) have made it a personal goal to solve the riddle of the vagabond’s disappearance. The cult of Everett Ruess, which has steadily grown over the years, centers on that riddle. Every devotee who responds to the romantic intensity of Everett’s writing or the visionary rapture of his paintings and blockprints wants to know what happened to him after he headed into Davis Gulch in November 1934.

Yet at the same time, steeping myself in the writings and artwork served another purpose, which was to “fi nd” Everett Ruess in the maze of his moods and contradictions. What made him tick? What was he ultimately after? Why did he need such unrelenting solo adventures in the wilderness to test himself? And if he had a goal beyond endless wandering, how close did he come to fulfilling it?

Then, for more than a year, between the summer of 2008 and the autumn of 2009, along with a small group of friends and associates in southeastern Utah, I thought that we might have actually found Everett’s body, wedged awkwardly inside a rock crevice in the sandstone monocline of the Comb Ridge. The ins and outs and ups and downs of that bizarre discovery and its aftermath took all of us on an extended emotional roller- coaster ride, and provoked a public response reaching as far as Russia and Japan.

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It may be that the mystery of Everett’s disappearance will never be solved. But thanks to the controversy that swirled around Comb Ridge, we have more hints and clues about the wanderer’s fate— and about his character— than we have ever had before. In that sense, Finding Everett Ruess may form the appropriate rubric for a collective quest to solve a riddle that has no parallel in the history of the American West.

david-robertsDAVID ROBERTS is the author of twenty books on mountaineering, adventure, and history. He has written for National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and Smithsonian. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Download an excerpt of Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts.

Share your thoughts with the author on the Finding Everett Ruess Facebook page.

About Kira Walton

Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

  • Nicole

    Looks interesting!

  • Concetta Zito

    Disappeared at age 20? Barely out of his teens? Amazing.

  • Julie Merrick

    This sounds like a very interesting book. I have recently taken up canyoneering with my brother and can’t seen to get enough of it.

  • jcb

    need another good book to read this summer

  • Claudia

    This book sounds so intriguing! I want to learn more about Everett Ruess!

  • Pattie Ann

    Very happy to see a true adventure biography book willbe available in the very near future. It seems like there aren’t that many published.

  • Cathy

    This looks like an interesting book. The small part I read captures your interest and makes you want to read more and find out who the man was and what he was doing. This is a book I would enjoy.

  • alyssa

    I love to read new books!!!

  • Kim Hopper

    Would love to read this book!

  • stephanie

    this book looks really good!

  • anna

    How exciting! I love a great read and a great mystery and this has both…..

  • Jody

    I hope I win :):)

  • Katherine Fairbairn

    Sounds like a fascinating read that will appeal to many readers!

  • Jaime

    Looks like an interesting read!

  • Sarah Sexter


  • April

    I love non-fiction. I know I would enjoy this book.

  • Lisa Bell

    Our readers group is excited about the chance to read this book. We just finished the accounting of the The Children’s Blizzard which puts together facts about what happened but reads like a novel. This book will likely do the same.

  • Jessica

    I enjoy reading, and would love to read this book

  • Sherry

    this looks like a book that you could travel in, I love this kind of book.


    sounds awesome!

  • joan bogorae

    Sounds like a very interesting read.Not the usual stuff.

  • Linda Barrier

    Reading is one of my my most favorite past times in life.I would love to win!!

  • Laurie blum

    Planning to read this book 😉

  • Tori Perander

    Would love to read:)!!

  • Laura Olander

    I find the combination of a mystery and the out of doors and nature and adventure very intriguing

  • Cindy

    I just got my free copy in the mail yesterday. I can’t put it down!! If you like Jon Krakauer books, this book needs to be on your must read list.

  • Silvia

    The author David Roberts puts together facts about what happened and skillfully took me through a spectrum of emotions. I hoped the bones found to be Everett’s and was disappointed when they were not. The book is well researched and simple an amazing read. Thanks for the story about the missing vagabond.

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