In 1930, Everett Ruess, at the age of 16, started his travels into the American Southwest. Usually walking, or occasionally riding one of his burros, Ruess traversed across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. He left behind a prolific bundle of writing, in both letters and journals, documenting his travels.
Everett was one of the first Anglos to venture into this desert wilderness solely to immerse himself in its beauty. He wasn’t a prospector or a rancher, just a young man who investigated cliff dwellings, painted water colors, cut linoleum prints of landscapes, and he wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
In November of 1934, Everett Ruess walked his two burros into Davis Gulch near Escalante, Utah, disappearing into history at the age of 20. He was never seen again. His body, paintings, equipment, and gear were (allegedly) never found. A search party found his two burros in a makeshift corral that Everett made in the canyon bottom of Davis Gulch.
Sadly, at least two of his journals are missing. One was stolen by a huckster who had claimed to a distraught family that he was going to write a biography on the young vagabond. That journal is in the hands of a private collector from Indiana who refuses to let anyone read it, including the Ruess family. The other, of course, disappeared with Everett.
Ruess packed a lot of life into 20 years; more than many do in a lifetime. His tale is a fascinating one. In his last letter to his brother Waldo, Everett wrote, “This had been a full, rich year. I have left no strange or delightful thing undone I wanted to do…”
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