Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Canyon Chronicles" Book Review

The Canyon Chronicles

read by Margaret Tearman

Soaring red cliffs. Boiling whitewater. Secret slot canyons. Poisonous snakes. Native American rituals. Killer heat. Raging blizzards … writes Bay Weekly contributing editor Margaret Tearman, herself a frequenter of such places.

This is the setting for The Canyon Chronicles (2011), Bay Weekly columnist Steve Carr’s memoir of living on the edge in some of America’s wildest acres during the era when Ronald Reagan’s administration was commercializing our national parks.

The edge comes from copious amounts of hallucinogenic drugs, unabashed amorous couplings and a devil-may-care, shrug-of-the shoulders attitude.

Reading Carr’s book is akin to eavesdropping on men reliving their glory days. On occasion, the tales got tall enough that I was tempted to say enough. But instead I leaned in even closer, not wanting to miss any colorful detail of Carr’s testosterone-fueled remember when’s.

Like the afternoon he and his hiking companions found themselves clawing their way up a cliff of a Colorado River side canyon, desperately trying to escape a deadly flash flood raging just inches below them. Or a dream date gone bad when Carr carelessly underestimated the frigid air and water temperatures deep in a slot canyon, and he and his trusting date were lucky to avoid death by hypothermia. Or the solitary hike in the desert backcountry when Carr was bitten by a rattlesnake — yet managed to trot 13 miles back to his pickup truck, where he quenched his thirst with a few cold beers, then drove through the night to the Buckskin Bar … instead of visiting the local ER.

The book is not all Indiana Jones swagger. It is also the story of irresponsible federal forestry management and corporate greed run amok.

While working as a timber surveyor in the Kaibab National Forest from 1983 to ’86, Carr stumbled upon illegal timber harvesting on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. He handed over evidence of Kaibab Industry’s illegal cutting to a sympathetic game and fish warden, hoping heads would roll when the news got out. His actions helped fuel a lawsuit that eventually shut down illegal logging in the Kaibab.

A regular columnist for the Bay Weekly, Carr is a rollicking storyteller who takes the armchair adventurer along for his crazy ride against a backdrop of the stunningly beautiful American Southwest. He entertains with his misadventures and makes no apologies for his recklessness, writing with his characteristic what the hell, I did it attitude. Carr is no naturalist and doesn’t make that promise. This is a book about human foibles against the backdrop of a harsh and often unforgiving environment. But you will pick up some geography, history and geology.
The Canyon Chronicles is an off-the-wall trip of a book, a ticket to a land — and state of mind — far, far away from Bay Country.

You can pick up a copy of “The Canyon Chronicles” at

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