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American Wild Explorations from the Grand Canyon to the Arctic Ocean

Biography / Memoir Nature Writing Out of Print
By: Michael Engelhard(Author)
230 pages, illustrations
Publisher: Hiraeth Press
American Wild
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  • American Wild ISBN: 9780988943094 Paperback Sep 2016 Out of Print #239745
About this book Biography Related titles

About this book

Torn between two "soulscapes" – the canyon country and Alaska – the author has roamed both for twenty-five years. En route he suffered snowstorms, boat-flips, heat, injury, bobcat tamales, upset raptors, charging grizzlies, the Park Service, heartbreak, hungry mosquitos, and honeymooners from abroad. Above all, American Wild speaks of one man's desire to see natural wealth and our stories about it preserved.

Customer Reviews


An anthropologist by training, Michael Engelhard has worked as a potter, wrangler, army officer, ship's cook, university teacher, outdoor instructor, and wilderness guide. Among his homes he has counted an oven-hot bunkhouse in Moab, an unheated sauna near the Arctic Circle, a houseboat parked on a ranch in British Columbia, and a blue-tarp hut shaped like a Tootsie Roll on the banks of the Rio Grande. His greatest accomplishment has been a 1,000-mile solo traverse of Alaska's Arctic, from the Canadian border to the Bering Strait. He is the author of Redrock Almanac and Where the Rain Children Sleep and the editor of four collections of nature writing. His most recent book is Ice Bear, a cultural history of that Arctic icon. Still moving often, he lives in Fairbanks, Alaska again.

Biography / Memoir Nature Writing Out of Print
By: Michael Engelhard(Author)
230 pages, illustrations
Publisher: Hiraeth Press
Media reviews

"Engelhard's essays deal with a wide variety of outdoor activities, such as backpacking, river rafting, mountaineering, bicycling, and berry picking. They also engage more abstract and personal issues, such as industrial development, climate change, Indigenous culture, blind dates, and cross-country moves [...] In the Wake of Skin Boats, perhaps the book's best essay, describes a sea-kayaking trip to Kenai Fjords National Park, skillfully weaving together descriptions of outdoor adventure, Indigenous culture, and colonial history while showcasing their interconnectedness."
Western American Literature

"Writing with the sort of calm authority that reminds me often of Barry Lopez."
– David Knowles, publisher of Earth Lines

"Alternately profound, funny, and enlightening, Engelhard manages something rarely even attempted in outdoor literature: stories focused not on the death-defying prowess of the adventurer, but on the wild glory of place."
– Erin McKittrick, author of Small Feet Big Land and A Long Trek Home

"Michael Engelhard's beautifully crafted book, dedicated to opposing lands of extremes, is an intricate weaving of poetic language and luscious imagery, of reverence and outrage, of intellect, humor, and wit. At times a Zen-like docent of the land, at others a curmudgeonly sage in the Abbey tradition, Engelhard doesn't just show you around the wild places he hopelessly loves, he takes you deep into their souls, sharing the senses they evoke and the ancient stories embedded within."
– Debra McKinney, co-author of Beyond the Bear

"With its exquisitely tough elegance and accordion range, Engelhard's prose growls and sings, appropriate for a writer whose twin poles of geographic passion are the Arctic and Southwest. Read him slowly, at the speed you would appreciate any array of delights, so as not to miss one fluting wren, deftly sketched fellow traveler, or diving grebe leaving "haiku pond-ripples". You will come away more ready to observe deeply and joyfully, more apt to draw thoughtful connections between your experiences and the natural world, and with a more nuanced insight into the dangers we pose to the places we love."
– Carol Haralson, editor of Sojourns (Peaks, Plateaus & Canyons Association)

"The wilderness needs a voice like Michael Engelhard – one that hums with honesty, lyricism, and sheer daring. In American Wild, he takes the reader on journeys where the gritty meets the ethereal. His spiritual reverence for the natural world radiates underneath careful language, and wonder flourishes with each turn of the page. It's a title fit for fans of nature writing that is at turns sharp, humorous, and moving."
– Seth Muller, editor of Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine

"With a background in cultural anthropology and 25 years of a nomadic life that's largely involved wilderness guiding, Engelhard is uniquely qualified to take readers well beyond the usual varieties of travel and nature writing. American Wild is not a guidebook to adventure; nor is it a clichéd rhapsody about spiritual growth among the rivers and mountains. Instead, each carefully wrought essay brings us a story from a life that's always moving, always questioning [...] American Wild is, true to its title, a set of explorations – not just into geographies but the idea of wildness. Engelhard, in matching his passion to an anthropologist's inquiry and a lyrically crafted prose shot with honesty and humor, proves to be an exceptional guide. As he reminds us, "In more than just literal ways, the desert and Arctic, if you can love them, will widen your horizons. Perhaps most importantly, both retain some of the best America has to offer: room for us and other creatures to breathe or disappear."
– Nancy Lord (former Alaska Writer Laureate), Alaska Dispatch News

"This is a sturdy collection for the avid outdoors person or anyone who loves good stories of adventures and peril. It's a good gift to consider for the Southwest book collector, as well."
Arizona Daily Sun

"Thoroughly at home in these wild places and among their creatures, Engelhard is a worthy guide across thresholds that can provoke profound, irrevocable change."
Foreword Reviews

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