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"A Walk in the Park" | Reviewed by William Winkler

After seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, Theodore Roosevelt said, “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it...[it is] the one great sight which every American should see.”

In 2016, Time magazine staff writer Kevin Fedarko and his friend photojournalist Pete McBride decided to attempt something accomplished by a smaller number of humans than have set foot on the moon; they wanted to complete, on foot, a 750-mile transit of the entire length of the Grand Canyon.

When he was 12-years old, living in industrially ravaged southwest Pennsylvania, Fedarko’s father gave him a copy of “The Man Who Walked Through Time,” an account of Welshman Colin Fletcher’s trek through the canyon. The book inspired Fedarko to leave his Pennsylvania home for the southwestern United States, where he served for several summers on the crew of a river rafting company.

The book details the planning (or relative lack of it) that Fedarko and McBride undertook before their first attempt at the journey in the company of vastly more experienced back country hikers. They failed to complete the journey on their first try, but gained valuable experience.

After more intensive preparation the pair, again accompanied on the first legs of the hike by seasoned companions, set out from Lee’s Ferry at the park’s far eastern border. The details of their adventures (and potentially catastrophic misadventures) comprise the majority of the text. But substantial portions of the book deal with their interactions with the indigenous Americans who inhabit the area, as well as descriptions of evidence left behind by the earliest inhabitants of the canyon and its environs.

Those who have visited the Grand Canyon will find this book a rewarding description of what tourists seldom see; those who have not will be inspired to make the canyon a part of their travel plans.

Fedarko’s rich prose creates vivid images of the Grand Canyon’s grandeur and beauty. His traveling companion, photographer Pete McBride, has created a book of images captured during the trek (The Grand Canyon: From River to Rim, 2018) which serves as a significant accompaniment to the written word.


 

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