David Roberts discusses his book Finding Everett Ruess, the enduring mystery of the explorer's death, and why Jon Krakauer nearly quit before writing Into the Wild. To listen to the extended interview click here, or subscribe to our iTunes podcasts.
In 1934, 20-year-old Everett Ruess disappeared in the red-rock canyons of southern Utah. Why are we still discussing him?
Ruess was a precocious teenage artist soloing for 10 months straight in the desert southwest. I’ve been to the more remote canyons and plateaus he visited and can appreciate just how out there he was in the 30s. Then there was the mystery of his death.
His last known campsite is in Davis Gulch, 50 miles out in the desert from Escalante. Really remote. Five months went by and there’s no word from him. The parents got their letters sent back from the postmistress, beginning a lifelong search for their lost son. Today there are four theories: he decided to go native and live a secret life on the Navajo Res or in Mexico, had an accident and fell off a cliff or drowned in the Colorado or froze to death in a winter storm, committed suicide, or was murdered. I think this last option is the most likely.