I have always viewed going out into nature as a way to escape. As an only child, I am not quite sure what I have always been trying to escape from, but into the woods, I continued to go. My first solo “hike” I remember distinctly. I was in second grade and decided to venture out into the woods behind my house. I walked back into the woods until I found a spot that just seemed to be calling to me. I sat down and looked up and the giant trees above me. Little did I know in that moment, looking at the maple and oak trees overhead, that one day I would get to stand among the magnificent redwood sequoias. In that moment, second grade me had no idea that this first solo “hike” would start a lifelong passion.
I did not have to read very far into “Desert Solitaire” to feel a connection to it. As Abbey describes being alone in Arches National Park I feel as if he is describing my dreams. His ability to unplug and just sit among nature inspires me. On page fourteen Abbey states, “ I wait. Now raw night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me; I can see the stars again and the world of starlight. I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness, I feel loveliness. Loveliness and a quiet exultation.” This not only resonates with me because of how I feel about spending time in nature alone but also because of the nature Abbey describes. I have seen the stars he talks of. I have seen these stars in Moab Utah with my own eyes and I understand. I understand how Abbey could feel loveliness. Just thinking about the blanket of stars that encompassed me years ago as I stood in the red dirt soil of Moab I feel a sudden sense of happiness and relaxation.
I also remember how stressful it was to look at the stars at Bryce Canyon and be constantly interrupted by the lights of Las Vegas. This memory makes me grateful for the blunt anger Abbey expresses in his writing. His ability to call things as he sees them makes “Desert Solitaire” interesting from start to finish. Abbey could have just written a book about the beauty of the west and stopped there, but he did not. He called out the evils of men, even those most of us would tell Abbey to shut up about. It is hard to read Abbey’s work without wanting to discuss or debate with him. When he discusses industrial tourism I find myself so conflicted. I understand his distaste for how tourist-oriented the National Parks have become, but I also want to argue that he cannot see the larger picture. The tourism industry keeps the National Parks protected. As prices to enter the park greatly increase this coming year, to pay for infrastructure work, I wonder what Abbey would think. I am also stuck wondering if it had not been for this industrial tourism would I even know what the stars Abbey describes look like?