A fascinating exploration of water in the American desert by the author of the acclaimed Crossing Paths.
Naturalist and adventurer Craig Childs seeks out water in the place where it is most rare: the American desert. In a narrative of exploration into unknown canyons and across remote arid expanses, Childs searches for water that is hidden, water that moves, and fierce water that kills without mercy. He teases out nuances of meaning from the smallest stream and recounts the high adventure of dodging a freight train of muddy flood water roaring through a narrow, steep-walled canyon. The personality of water becomes fully animated in this remarkable book.
Childs's obsessive quest to find, map, observe and get wet in the waters of America's deserts has personal roots. Born in the Sonoran Desert of West Texas, this naturalist, river guide and author of four previous books (most recently, Grand Canyon) grew up learning to revere water, that fickle, scarce, elemental sustainer of life. More than a fiercely lyrical travelogue through Arizona, Utah, the Grand Canyon and northern Mexico's cottonwood-willow forests, his hypnotic new book describes an existential adventure. Trekking for days or weeks, alone or with a companion, in search of random waterholes, rare creeks, waterfalls, springs, shrimp-filled pools and sudden, furious floods, Childs mingles personal observations with a cosmic perspective ("Most, if not all, water on this planet came from countless small comets thumping against the atmosphere... ") to make readers feel an integral part of earth's hydrologic processes. Far from being arid, his narrative ripples with adventure. He descends into a slot canyon full of 800-year-old handprints left by the Anasazi people; spots desert fish found nowhere else and believed to be holdovers from the Ice Age; survives an Arizona chubasco, a violent convective thunderstorm that rips roofs off buildings and creates myriad waterfalls. Childs's sources are diverse: conversations with archeologists, ecologists, ranchers, conservationists, geologists; Native American legends; tales of backpackers, explorers and illegal immigrants who fell victim to the desert; and a meticulous, 300-year-old desert map made by a Jesuit missionary from Spain. His highly personal odyssey combines John McPhee's gift for compressing scientific knowledge and Barry Lopez's spiritual questing. Five-city author tour. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|