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"Gila Descending" by M.H. Salmon

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Offline Raoul Duke

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"Gila Descending" by M.H. Salmon
« on: August 09, 2011, 06:31:48 PM »
Okay, so this is not exactly a book about Big Bend, but it takes place in the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico, which in may ways is like Big Bend.  And it's a damn good read.

I picked it up quite by accident at the Borders close-out sale in Albuquerque while on vacation.  Like many books from small publishers, it was ensconced in cellophane so I couldn't even flip through it to get an overview.  But at $9, I figured it was worth the gamble.  The cover, which revealed that it is about a 220 mile trip down the Gila River in New Mexico and Arizona, hooked me, as did the endorsement from Edward Abbey.

The similarities between this book to "Goodbye to a River" by John Graves are many.  Both involved a canoe trip down a river that was threatened with damning, both included a solo passenger with a dog (Salmon brings a cat as well), and the authors in both delve into topics such as history, the ethics of hunting, wilderness preservation, and self-reflection.  But Salmon's book brings plenty of fresh material and insight to the genre of Western outdoor literature.  Salmon does an excellent job of sharing the wonderful experience of hiking and paddling through the Gila Wilderness and beyond in a narrative form that is interesting and easy to follow.  He also provides some very interesting and informative insights into topics such as wilderness preservation, hunting, Western development, and Southwestern history.

The book was written in 1986, but the issues Salmon discusses are just as alive and relevant today.

Bottom line: if you enjoyed Graves' classic "Goodbye to a River," or you love the Southwest in general, you will thoroughly enjoy this book. 

"Getting bored with your neurosis?  Drop you analyst--drop him/her like a cold potato--and make tracks for the nearest river." -Edward Abbey



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