In 1934 This Explorer Set Out Solo Into The Utah Desert – But His Fate Remains Shrouded In Mystery

It was November 1934 when 20-year-old Everett Ruess arrived in the remote Utah township of Escalante with his two burros. The settlement had been founded by Mormons in 1876 and it was a place where the arrival of a stranger was a rare event. Everett appeared relaxed and exchanged small talk with the townsfolk.

Ruess pitched camp under some old cottonwood trees across the Escalante River which ran just to the north of the town. The youngsters of the town were happy to make the most of a friendly stranger in their midst, and Ruess took them riding. On his last night there, he even treated two of them to a movie in the town’s theater.

So who was this strange young man who had apparently arrived in the town from nowhere? Everett Ruess was born in March 1914 in Oakland, California, to Christopher and Stella. He was their second child and a younger brother to Waldo, who was born in 1909. Stella was an artist and poet, while Christopher worked as a probation officer.

The Ruess household was one that revered art and literature. Everett’s father encouraged his son to read challenging books and to study the great philosophers. His mother, meanwhile, taught him how to make block prints. Everett also developed an interest in photography and wrote poetry.

Ruess showed his appetite for adventure as early as 1930, when he was still only 16. In the summer of that year, the young man hitchhiked through California to the city of Carmel. And the following year, after graduating from Hollywood High School, he set off on his first real expedition.