Walking the High Desert: Encounters with Rural America Along the Oregon Desert Trail


This is the book I would have written if I could have.

Thank goodness Ellen Waterston did first, it’s much more eloquent 🙂 AND she was a rancher in Eastern Oregon and has an incredible perspective about the ODT and the issues facing the high desert (and rural America).

I had the chance to read one of Ellen’s drafts about a year ago during a week-long raft trip on the John Day River (our only undammed river in Oregon). I’ve literally been excited about this for a year!

I went to grad school at Goldsmiths (University of London) for design futures (trying to make the world a better place through thoughtful design) concentrating on museum exhibition design. I wanted to take the museum out of the museum, and for the last four and half years have been doing just that. The Oregon Desert Trail is my museum exhibit, and reading this book will help facilitate your journey through a three-dimensional space: eastern Oregon.

The book is available for preorder now on Ellen’s website, and join in for a virtual book launch on June 17 with the High Desert Museum.

Look at these recommendations!

“There is no better guide to Oregon’s high desert than Ellen Waterston. Her sense of place, her lyrical love of this sometimes hard to love place, her balanced yet passionate dissection of the issues roiling the big land of junipers and open sky is a wonderful match for her subject. While the West is full of poets who love the land, few of them are as intellectually nimble as Waterston.”
— Timothy Egan, author of A Pilgrimage to Eternity

“Walking the High Desert grows right out of the relatively new and little-traveled Oregon Desert Trail, but it is no trail guide, much less a braggadocious through-hike log. Ellen Waterston has given us her own very personal Baedeker to a little-known landscape that she knows well as both rancher and writer, hitting all the high points of the heart as well as in elevation. In language as crisp as the desert air, her book serves equally well as a primer on Western conservation, a lure into difficult but hugely rewarding country, and a who’s who and what’s what of high desert life and culture. Woven out of her own remarkable stories, her trek becomes an insightful research for how we might all get along, here and elsewhere, in a perilously shifting world.”
— Robert Michael Pyle, author of The Thunder Tree, Mariposa Road and Magdalena Mountain.

”Since time immemorial, humans have been living, loving and exploring the West’s high desert. In turn, those of us living here are influenced by how the desert is subtle, nuanced and rich. Ellen’s Walking the High Desert is at once profound and worthy of all these descriptors of the high desert. Uniting stories from across this diverse landscape—the humans and non-human voices—Ellen weaves an incomparable narrative of wonder, science, history and prose. This book deeply and cleverly explores the desert landscape and the complexity of the interplay of humans and this amazing piece of the Intermountain West.”
— Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D., Executive Director of the High Desert Museum

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