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Sandstone Spine

by David Roberts

Sandstone Spine Book Cover     I became instantly excited when I first heard about this book. Roberts previous book about the Anasazi, In Search of the Old Ones is a great read and has provided me with a lot of inspiration as I have explored the areas he visited. This book is about the first traverse of Comb Ridge in Southeast Utah. Comb Ridge is a favorite place of mine as I love the slick rock expanses and the sheer drop of the cliff on the western edge. Needless to say the combination of Comb Ridge and David Roberts had me excited.

     Unfortunately, I was left somewhat disappointed by this slim book. The book itself is quite handsome. It is hardbound with an attractive paper jacket. The book is fairly short at a total of 190 pages. There are 16 pages of color photos and a number of B&W photos are scattered throughout the book.

     Hiking the entire length of Comb Ridge is an amazing undertaking and the book is laid out in chronological fashion beginning with the trip planning then following the Roberts and two friends as they hike from where Comb emerges from the valley floor in the South to its terminus in the North. The hike takes them through some of the most remote areas of Anasazi country. The fact that much of the hike took place on Navajo reservation lands insures that few will seek to repeat their travels. The information on supply caches and water issues should give pause to any experienced desert hiker.

     Unfortunately, it seemed to me that Roberts really didn't care about the book. He very obviously cared about the hike and the country through which he traveled. However, the book itself seems almost like an afterthought that was whipped out to make a buck. It didn't present the Anasazi with the same sense of wonder as the Old Ones. Rather, much of the book is spent glorifying his hiking companions and explaining why they are the best and greatest. Don't get me wrong, these are exceptional individuals that deserve the respect he shows them. However, I want to know about the land and ancient people.

     Lots of pages are spent discussing disagreements about where to camp, when to hike and the like. As someone who has spent many days in the back country with others I realize that these dynamics have a profound impact on a trip but I was left with the feeling that they were just words of filler that were put in to take space as opposed to providing useful insights. Another gripe is the arrogance that permeates the book. It's like Roberts is saying ?we are special and should be treated as such?.

     This book did little to add to my knowledge of the Anasazi. In Old Ones Roberts presented much useful information about the people. Much of this was either recycled into this book or completely missing. One exception to this was his discussion of why the people left the area. He admits that in Old Ones he was caught up in the then popular theory of push-pull. That theAnasazi left because of both a push away from the area and a pull to the new area. He now advocates that they left because of warfare and climate long before the Navajos arrived. There is a lot of Anasazi information in this book but I felt that most of it was regurgitated from his previous work and not new research for this effort. I did enjoy the accounts of the early Mormon activities in the area. Having spent some time in this general area I am keenly aware of how significant and demanding some of their exploration efforts were.

     In summary, I would buy this book again and will read it again because of my interest in all things Anasazi and Comb Ridge in particular. If you have similar interests you will want to read this book.   Sandstone Spine: Seeking the Anasazi on the First Traverse of the Comb Ridge



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