This winter reading list may inspire survival in hard times

Jan 16 2012 - 11:26pm


An apology: My Sunday column said Sen. Orrin Hatch was one of many prominent people who have written U.S. District Judge Dee Benson on behalf of Brigham City Dr. Dewey MacKay, asking that MacKay receive a lenient sentence for his drug convictions.

As far as I know, Sen. Hatch is not among those who have written to Judge Benson on MacKay's behalf. I should not have included him in that column. I did so in error.

I sincerely apologize to Sen. Hatch.

Books to last a cold winter

Winter is dark, cold and gloomy. I need escape and seek out books to inspire survival.

This year, I have three. One actually kept me alive in a time of trial.

These are available at your local bookstore or by order. The first is public domain and is free online.

* "The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons," by John Wesley Powell.

Don't let the boring title scare you. This book, published in 1875, is terrific, especially the river trip parts.

Powell went down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1869. He and nine men used wooden boats better designed for lakes to take on some of the worst rapids in the world.

One boat is dashed to pieces. One man bows out after a few weeks. The rest live on rancid flour, black coffee and muddy water as they struggle for their lives.

At the end, three guys leave two days before Powell and the rest finish the run. The book says their departure -- they climb out of the canyon and hike north -- is on good terms, but that final two days makes you wonder.

I read this book before a week's vacation at the Grand Canyon. The day I drove into the park, it was dark, snowing, and the road was invisible. Life sucked, but I said, "If those guys can get down that canyon in leaky boats, I can make 25 miles on a paved road in a Subaru with a heater and all-wheel drive."

I survived. At the Grand Canyon, I bought:

* "Death in the Grand Canyon," by Michael Ghiglieri and Thomas Myers.

This book on the many ways to die at the Grand Canyon begins with people falling off the rim and goes on to people who die from heat, drowning and starvation or are shot, stabbed and pushed to death. There are plane crashes and even some "Thelma and Louise" drive-off-the-rim wannabes.

The last chapter, "Murder," discusses those three guys who left Powell's expedition.

The original story was that Indians got them, but there is modern speculation they were murdered by Mormon settlers who thought they were federal spies. Comparisons to the Mountain Meadows massacre are made.

But why did they leave? For that you need:

* "First Through the Grand Canyon," by Michael Ghiglieri.

This book contains all the journals written by Powell's crew during that 1869 trip.

Everyone thinks Powell wrote his report alone, but he had help. After the team got into the Grand Canyon, with all its hellish rapids, Powell's writing got very spotty.

He fleshed out his book with his crew's journals, but didn't give them credit. Powell also included stuff from a second trip two years later.

The crew journals document the growing unhappiness with Powell that caused those three guys to lose faith. It's a bit much to say Powell caused their deaths, but failure by the captain to run a happy ship is why a crew bugs out.

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or email He also blogs at

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