About once a year I return to the works of my old friend Edward Abbey, the Jeffersonian environmentalist, who died in 1989 at the age of 62.  Unlike the modern environmentalist, who is typically an urban chair-sitter, fundraiser, and postdemocratic politician, Ed Abbey was the real thing as well as a fine writer, competent equally in the back-of-beyond and at his old manual typewriter.  His best-known novel, The Monkey-Wrench Gang, is highly entertaining, but the essence of Abbey is to be found in his nonfiction books describing his adventures in the desert Southwest and elsewhere.  Desert Solitaire, his account of a stint as a park ranger at Arches National Monument near Moab, Utah, remains, for me at least, his best book.  Whether in the dead of winter in Wyoming, or on a flight to Europe, a page or two of this wonderful book translates me to the slickrock canyons—the smells of juniper and baking sandstone, of piñon smoke, boiling coffee and frying bacon over the campfire; the cries of pine jays overhead, and the croak of tree frogs.  An unforgettable book by a unforgettable man.  

        —Chilton Williamson, Jr.