Walking the High Desert
Encounters with Rural America along the Oregon Desert Trail
- PUBLISHED: June 2020
- SUBJECT LISTING: Pacific Northwest, Literature / Creative Nonfiction, Nature and Environment
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 248 Pages, 5.5 x 8.5 in, 1 map
- ISBN: 9780295747507
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Former high desert rancher Ellen Waterston writes of a wild, essentially roadless, starkly beautiful part of the American West. Following the recently created 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail, she embarks on a creative and inquisitive exploration, introducing readers to a “trusting, naïve, earnest, stubbly, grumpy old man of a desert” that is grappling with issues at the forefront of national, if not global, concern: public land use, grazing rights for livestock, protection of sacred Indigenous ground, water rights, and protection of habitat for endangered species.
Blending travel writing with memoir and history, Waterston profiles a wide range of people who call the high desert home and offers fresh perspectives on nationally reported regional conflicts such as the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation. Walking the High Desert invites readers—wherever they may be—to consider their own beliefs, identities, and surroundings through the optic of the high desert of southeastern Oregon.
Authors & Contributors
Ellen Waterston is author of Where the Crooked Desert Rises: A High Desert Home, a memoir, four poetry collections, and four poetry collections including a verse novel. She is the founder and president of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize and the founder of the Writing Ranch in Bend, Oregon.
Readers of Oregon’s local history, advocates of the environment and high desert dwellers on the left and right side of the aisle will connect with this book. In Waterston’s classic voice that imparts her immense research while speaking to readers like a friend, Walking the High Desert is an important addition to Oregon’s literature about place.- Bend Magazine
Whether or not you make it to this part of the country, Waterston will make you take a closer look at the place you call home.- Kirkus Reviews
Walking the High Desert braids together the challenges of rural and small-town America with the opportunities for and threats to wilderness conservation. It’s tied together with the ribbon of Waterston’s own experiences as a rancher, writer and resident. This book shares iridescent insights.- Bookmonger
This lyrical and passionate celebration of the Oregon high desert is devoted to delivering a compelling argument for its conservation...Walking the High Desert unpacks the complexity of conservation issues as lived experience, and will make a tremendous contribution as a defining text for Western conservation advocates and the policy questions they face.- Choice
[A]n engaging commentary on many aspects of life and land in southeastern Oregon... For those with an appreciation for humanistic connections, this book will be a wonderful companion if you walk along the Oregon Desert Trail.- Journal of Geography
[O]ffers im portant insight into the people and politics of southeastern Oregon's high desert country... While the title of the book conjures up a travelogue of sorts, the book itself is more a metaphorical journey, skillfully weaving together various strands of human experience, past and present, into a vibrant tapestry that brings this hardscrabble region to life.- Pacific Northwest Quarterly
There is no better guide to Oregon’s high desert than Ellen Waterston. Her sense of place, her lyrical love of this sometimes hard to love place, her balanced yet passionate dissection of the issues roiling the big land of junipers and open sky is a wonderful match for her subject. While the West is full of poets who love the land, few of them are as intellectually nimble as Waterston.- Timothy Egan, author of The Worst Hard Time and Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher
Walking the High Desert grows right out of the relatively new and little-traveled Oregon Desert Trail, but it is no trail guide, much less a braggadocious through-hike log. Ellen Waterston has given us her own very personal Baedeker to a little-known landscape that she knows well as both rancher and writer, hitting all the high points of the heart as well as in elevation. In language as crisp as the desert air, her book serves equally well as a primer on Western conservation, a lure into difficult but hugely rewarding country, and a who's who and what's what of high desert life and culture. Woven out of her own remarkable stories, her trek becomes an insightful search for how we might all get along, here and elsewhere, in a perilously shifting world.- Robert Michael Pyle, author of The Thunder Tree, Mariposa Road, and Magdalena Mountain
Beautifully written, graceful, and engaging. Waterston's blend of travelogue, memoir, and meditation brings a new focus to Oregon's high desert.- Molly Gloss, author of The Hearts of Horses and Unforeseen
Since time immemorial, humans have been living, loving, and exploring the West’s high desert. In turn, those of us living here are influenced by how the desert is subtle, nuanced, and rich. Waterston’s book is at once profound and worthy of all these descriptors of the high desert. Uniting stories from across this diverse landscape—the human and non-human voices—Waterston weaves an incomparable narrative of wonder, science, history, and prose. This book deeply and cleverly explores the desert landscape and the complexity of the interplay of humans and this amazing piece of the intermountain west.- Dana Whitelaw, executive director of the High Desert Museum
Ellen Waterston shows us how, by traveling daunting desert landscapes, we might learn to read more deeply into the land; she brings us face to face with our unexamined prejudices and misconceptions about the rural West and those who live here.- David Axelrod, author of Folly and What Next, Old Knife?