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Intro Picture
Hi! My name is Anne. Welcome to my traveling blog! Read the latest stories below or check out the list of previous stories in the blog archive on the right!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Inspirations Part 2 - Everett Ruess

"As to when I shall visit civilization, it will not be soon, I think. I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrand life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading to the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities. Do you blame me then for staying here, where I feel that I belong and am one with the world around me? It is true that I miss intelligent companionship, but there are so few with whom I can share the things that mean so much to me that I have learned to contain myself. It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty....
From your scant description, I know that I could not bear the routine and humdrum of the life that you are forced to lead. I don't think I could ever settle down. I have known too much of the depths of life already, and I would prefer anything to an anticlimax."
- Everett Ruess

Considering that I have been static for the past four weeks I thought it was a nice time for another post about a person that has inspired me greatly.
Unfortuntely, this guy is presumed to be dead. This is starting to form a pattern, but don't worry, I have no intention of dying haha. Though as I said, he is presumed to be dead, because nobody really knows what happened to Everett Ruess. There are tons of rumors and possibilities on offer, but by now I think it's safe to assume he's dead. And that is because his story takes place in the 30's... 

Everett started wandering by himself in 1930, at the age of 16. His journeys took him through a large part of the American South-West, sticking to the deserts he loved so well: the High Sierras, Utah, the Grand Canyon, and a lot of other different places.
He traveled in different ways, sometimes being on foot for a while, but he is best known for the two burros he used for most of his travels: one as a pack animal, the other to ride.
In 1934 however, Ruess mysteriously disappeared in Davis Gulch, near the Escalante river in Utah, and has not been found since, though there have been occassions where people thought to have found his remains.
Speculations ran wild after news of his disappearance. Some thought he got killed by robbers, or maybe a mountain cat, or maybe even by Indians. Others thought he drowned in a river, or that he fell to his death while climbing one of the many cliffs in Utah. Some others even suggested that he got taken in by an Indian tribe in one of the reserves, where he supposedly married a young girl and all the Natives were in on a plot to hide him from the world so that they might live in peace.
And though there have been many search parties, nobody ever got any closer to the truth.

I have been thinking more and more that I shall always be a lone wanderer of the wilderness. God, how the trail lures me. You cannot comprehend its resistless fascination for me. After all, the lone trail is best…I’ll never stop wandering. And when the time comes to die, I’ll find the wildest, loneliest, most desolate spot there is.
- Everett Ruess

While traveling he would spend his time composing poetry, making paintings, and cutting linoleum prints, which he would often sell for food so he could keep going.
Everett was gifted with the ability to see beauty in such a way that, in his own words, it was almost painful and too much to bear. He struggled with portraying his feelings through his art, but a clear idea of how he felt can be found by reading his many letters to friends and family, many of which have been saved and used in several books about him. I personally own a copy of 'Everett Ruess: A vagabond for beauty', which is a collection of all the letters the auther could find.
In these letters Ruess would describe his lifestyle, his surroundings and the way he felt about them: he was in love with the desert.
(I could quote the largest part of his letters because they are so well-written, but unfortunately I don't have the book with me and the internet doesn't come up with much other than the quotes above and below! But it's definitely a recommended read for all those who are interested in Everett's story.)
He loathed the big cities and stayed out of them as much as he could, though he has tried to reintegrate into 'civilised life' several times, attending school but dropping out after a few months, and all the while he tried to meet as many people as possible to improve his art.

"I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I want to live more intensely and richly. Why muck and conceal one's true longings and loves, when by speaking of them one might find someone to understand them, and by acting on them one might discover oneself?"
- Everett Ruess

During his travels he was well-known by a lot of people. 
People at outposts referred to him as that 'weird painter kid', travelling by himself with two burros for company. A lot of the Natives in the reserves knew him as well, because he would sometimes run into them or even visit them. He even knew some famous artists who's names I can't quite remember (I never had a big interest in art). Whenever Everett wanted to meet someone, he just walked up to their door and rang the bell. His ways may have been blunt but they did work a lot of times. He always kept true to his family motto: "Eternity is made of todays. Glorify the hour."
Though he spent most of his travels by himself, he was a very social person and he talked to pretty much anybody he came across, but never found a person with the same interests to join him.
The following bit Everett called 'The Lone Trail'.

"Three or four years ago I came to the conclusion that for me, at least, the lone trail was the best, and the years that have followed strenghtened my belief.
It is not that I am unable to enjoy companionship or unable to adapt myself to other people. But I dislike to bring into play the agressiveness of spirit which is necessary with an assertive companion, and I have found it easier and more adventurous to face situations alone. There is a splendid freedom in solitude, and after all, it is for solitude that I go to the mountains and deserts, not for companionship. In solitude I can bare my soul to the mountains unabashed. I can work or think, act or recline at my whim, and nothing stands between me and the Wild.
Then, on occasion, I am grateful for what unusual and fine personality I may encounter by chance, but I have learned not to look too avidly for them. I delve into myself, into abstractions and ideas, trying to arrange the other things harmoniously, but after that, taking them as they come."

Everett could make friends well enough, but never found a true companion.
He was however one of the first people to be allowed to witness a Hopi ritual, and he was friendly and sang songs with the Navajo and other Native tribes. He felt a close bond with the Native way of life, preferring to live in and with Nature, instead of simply keep taking from it.
As such he preferred the Natives over the white traders in the area. Though he was eager enough to help out an expedition uncovering some Anasazi ruins, where the team members often feared for his life as he climbed dangerous cliffs to paint an amazing view.
In this period of time a large part of the ruins and other places of the area were largely unknown and uncovered, and Everett would take off on his own for weeks or months, often finding these old places where he would sometimes spend the night.

Such were the views Everett was treated to, and I hope to see these places myself soon.

An Anasazi ruin at Mesa Verde

The inside of a Kiva

And in this way he wandered for four years, before becoming lost forever. But let it be said that he did not die in an anti-climax!
His story has inspired a lot of people, and I think we can all learn something from people like Christopher McCandless and Everett Ruess. Most people seemingly wait to follow their dreams, 'untill the time is right'. But "...while I am alive, I intend to live." 

"Say that I starved, that I was lost and weary 
That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun 
footsore, thirsty, sick with strange diseases, 
lonely and wet and cold, but that I kept my dream!"


  1. Such a great man ... I am re-re-re (etc.) reading "A vagabond for beauty" by W.L. Rusho and I'm still amazed by how he described the feelings one can have when facing the Wilderness alone.
    I found your blog while searching for Ruess' quotes and it seems we went to similar places ! ;)

    1. I've read the book several times as well. Each time I read it, it gets my heart pumping faster again, and it burns with longing.
      Walking through Arches National Park and traveling through the desert of the US was a dream come true for me, though I haven't seen nearly enough of it.