Kevin Fedarko’s The Emerald Mile ($18, Simon & Schuster) is a rollicking, insightful and highly enjoyable tome that chronicles the legendary 1983 trip by river guides through the flood-ravaged Grand Canyon. Using the Biblical flows as, in the author’s words, a “hydrologic slingshot,” along with their vast experience and seeming lack of fear, Kenton Grua, Rudi Petschek and Steve Reynolds set a speed record through the canyon that has yet to be broken by an oar-powered boat.
But Fedarko, a former staff writer at Time magazine and senior editor for Outside, wasn’t done with the Grand Canyon. Instead, he and his National Geographic colleague and Basalt-resident Pete McBride undertook a major endeavor to get to know it even more intimately, when they set out to walk the canyon’s entire 800-plus-mile length in 2015. Their intent was to draw awareness to the pressures—development, uranium mining, air traffic and increased tourism—being put on the country’s second most visited national park.
Both are working on books about the grueling ordeal—which Grua was the first in recorded history to accomplish—and part of Fedarko’s writing is to take place in Aspen this month, as a writer-in-residence with Aspen Words. Fedarko’s next as-yet-untitled work will also be long-form narrative nonfiction. (McBride has his own book coming out in October about the journey, as well as a feature-length film in 2019.)
Fedarko and McBride have years of experience with the Grand Canyon, but it was nearly all from the perspective of its agent of change, the Colorado River.
Neither appreciated that stepping away from the river “is to move into a very, very different part of the Grand Canyon,” he says. The original plan was for Fedarko and McBride to hike the mostly trail-less terrain between the river and the canyon rim themselves, harrowing ground that involved “bushwhacking through this matrix of cliffs and ledges.”
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