Finding Everett Ruess, by David Roberts, published by Broadway Press, 2011,reviewed by J.S. Bradford.
The mystery of Everett Ruess, a twenty-year old explorer who inexplicably disappeared in the Utah wilderness in 1934,continues to grip our imagination. Everett graduated from Hollywood High School at the age of sixteen. In a matter of weeks, he was exploring Monument Valley and the Navajo Reservation. He traveled alone. His supplies and equipment were limited to what could be carried on the back of a burro. A talented artist and poet, Everett searched out and explored Canyon de Chelly and other prehistoric ruins. He recorded his succession of journeys in letters and diaries, as well as with photographs, paintings, and engravings. He intermittently returned home to visit family in Los Angeles, including a short stint at UCLA, but the lure to wander remained in his soul.
On his last journey Everett wrote letters dated November 11, 1934 to his parents, Christopher and Stella, and his brother, Waldo, from a camp base somewhere near Escalante, Utah. In his letter to his parents, Everett wrote, “I am going south towards the (Colorado) river now, through some rather wild country.” His family never heard from him again.
As months passed, Everett’s parents searched for their son but to no avail. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and United Press. A series of dispatches printed by the Salt Lake Tribune in August of 1935 suggested that Everett had been murdered. From that point forward, speculation has never ceased. Murder has never been ruled out and continues to surface under varying circumstances. Another theory, understandably preferred by Everett’s parents, was that he was still alive but preferred to remain in hiding. One theory suggested that Everett had taken his own life given a history of bipolar struggles. But the most solid theory would be that Everett drowned attempting to cross the Colorado River. In any event, the mystery of Everett Ruess—much like the case of Amelia Earhart—was firmly established.
Finding Everett Ruess helps reset the course for investigative reporters and people genuinely intrigued by the mystery. The story has become mythical by the manner in which it has generated layers of speculation as to the fate of the young adventurer. Interest in Everett Ruess has also been absorbed by the spirit of latter generations who wish to experience and preserve the wilderness. For this reason alone, the story will live on. Reading this book will give you a solid appreciation for the life and accomplishments of Everett Ruess.