- Outdoors in the Southwest: An Adventure Anthology ed. by Andrew Gulliford
Outdoors in the Southwest: An Adventure Anthology celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act, not just by looking back but by looking ahead. Editor Andrew Gulliford wants to encourage wilderness use by a new generation at a time when significantly fewer visitors than a generation ago are entering backcountry places, which without road access require multiple days to reach. Moreover, Gulliford has observed how the daring that fuels extreme sports can color attitudes toward all wilderness experience, with the potential for extreme disregard for its very real dangers. His anthology is an attempt to encourage responsible use of the wilderness [End Page 91] by creating both an awareness of the natural and cultural history of southwestern wilderness areas and an appreciation of their dangers. Gulliford’s ultimate goal is to turn wilderness users into a new generation of ecoactivists and conservation volunteers.
Inspired by Edward Abbey, whose image appears in the book’s front matter, Outdoors in the Southwest includes essays by such noted writers as Terry Tempest Williams, Craig Childs, Ann Zwinger, and Ellen Meloy, as well as numerous cautionary tales of wilderness experience gone awry chronicled by professional wilderness guides. Again and again, the essays emphasize the value of outdoor experience and technical skills accompanied by the need to avoid dangerous conditions and personal hubris. While the volume’s target audience is students training to become wilderness guides, anyone interested in the landscape of the Southwest will appreciate these essays. Divided into eight sections ending with study questions, the collection follows a classic textbook format, each section prefaced with an essay by Gulliford incorporating environmental history along with the relevant history of environmental activism.
The book begins with a reexamination of the American need for wilderness, notably with the ecophilosophical arguments articulated by Aldo Leopold that, forty years before passage of the Wilderness Act, led to the Gila Wilderness’s designation as the nation’s first wilderness area. Although the collection’s second section focuses on the ethic of protecting the ancient Indigenous art and artifacts found in many wilderness areas, the issue of ecosystem integrity is not addressed until the next-to-last section, which details the activities of wildlife biologists responsible for reintroducing species like the Mexican gray wolf and monitoring and relocating others like the bighorn sheep.
Gulliford notes that his approach to wilderness recreation is not comprehensive. He omits hunting and fishing entirely to focus on such activities as hiking, rock climbing, and river running. While claiming a strong bias for cooperative group ventures, he devotes one section explicitly to going solo.
The essays give readers real insight into the rigors of wilderness experience, from the Continental Divide Trail to the climb up Baboquivari Peak. They also speak to experiences that could befall the incautious or the unlucky almost anywhere in the Southwest—being [End Page 92] struck by lightning, pinned under a boulder, or caught in a slot canyon. Echoing the editor’s goal of effecting personal transformations, Wayne Ranney gives voice to the profound satisfaction he derives from being a Grand Canyon guide, decidedly proud of the reluctant novice transformed through the difficulties of the hike.