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Walk #64: A Wine Cave; A Walk With Abbey, part one...

Posted Mar 06 2009 12:00am
Walk Duration: 45 minutes...

I'm back in the Wine Country. Took my walk after work on a country lane. Brought my walking stick along. Feels strange to have it here in the Napa Valley. Out of place. Less of a need for this sort of protection. I came upon a wine cave being constructed. It's the new fad for a winery in the Napa Valley to have their own wine caves. Companies make good money boring out the holes in the sides of the two mountain ranges that enclose the Napa Valley. I walked into the cave, feeling like I was doing something naughty.


The book at the top is the first edition of Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. I'm lucky enough to have one. I brought my old dog eared copy along and read the first sixty pages last night. My quest is to examine Abbey's walks within this classic.

Edward Abbey wrote his own introduction. This is something he did for many of his books...he often quipped that nobody could write a review of his books better than he could. I guess the same applied to introductions. An introduction should concisely condense the themes of the book, without taking away the need to read it. Abbey did that, and he quickly introduces us to how he feels about walking. He writes:

"Do not jump into your automobile next June and rush out to the canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages. In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe. Probably not."


His first walk happens on page 12. "I take my walking stick and go for a stroll down the road into the thickening darkness. I have a flashlight with me but will not use it..."

He goes on to say: "There's another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him. If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light which it makes in front of me; I am isolated".

Imagine what Abbey would say about an Ipod!

Walking with a flashlight starts Abbey off on a theme. A beautiful description follows of writing a letter with the generator on. I can relate; I use a generator at times. Abbey subtly introduces us to his Ludditian theme that machines isolate us from the real world. True.

Walk Number Two for Abbey takes up a whole chapter. "I take my cherrywood and go for a walk before breakfast". 15 pages of beautiful description of the Arches National Park flora and fauna follow. Simply marvelous descriptions with vintage Abbey antics and philosophy i.e. killing a rabbit by throwing a rock. Primal.

Walk Number Three for Abbey happens on page 59. A survey crew arrives making plans for a new road into the park. Abbey waits for them to leave and then for five miles retraces the route of the survey crew "I pulled up each wooden stake and threw it away". This is the end of his chapter on what he calls "Industrial Tourism and the National Parks". A crusade against the automobile, which was ahead of its time. I've visited two National Parks where cars are curtailed or not allowed. Abbey had the idea first in 1968.

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