Originally published in the Winter 18-19 issue of SPOKE+BLOSSOM.

Desert Cabal by Amy Irvine_Cat Mayer


Desert Cabal by Amy Irvine

On this, the 50th anniversary of the publication of Desert Solitaire, Norwood author Amy Irvine challenges the timelessness of Edward Abbey’s work, approaching it from a modern and female perspective. 

Through an imagined conversation at his gravesite, Irvine questions Abbey’s idea of experiencing solitude in wilderness. She notes that his writing on the subject ironically brought crowds to the West. Yet, as she pours her three fingers of rye to Abbey’s open beer, she also recognizes the commonalities they share. She toasts their failed marriages, their time as park rangers welcoming those who wanted only to know where to get the best pictures, and the way their writing brings masses to the places they hoped to preserve. 

Irvine sees the need to look inside ourselves for our own complicity in the loss of solitude and wilderness. When we raft, hike, or climb with friends — usually laden with gear and driving miles for the experience — we often rely on an entire community and culture of commercialism for the experience. 

Those of us who belong to this part of the world lament these changes, yet without them perhaps we wouldn’t see the necessity for protecting our wide open spaces and educating others. “Because,” as Irvine writes, “if people came to care about the way the air shimmers when the rabbitbrush shrugs off the heat and sends it rolling across the slickrock, the way the antelope bolt like lightning unleashed from a squalid sky — maybe we’d stand a prayer of a chance to save the places we treasure from those who would take some quick and dirty form of amusement over poetry, beauty, and wonder.”

— Marya Johnston, Out West Books



Camp Coffee, Elevated by AeroPress

As Desert Cabal begins, Amy Irvine fires up her old camp stove to share a cuppa with the spirit of Edward Abbey. While not much can compare with waking in the wilderness, camp coffee often leaves plenty to be desired. 

Enter the AeroPress. This innovative brewing tool is lauded by connoisseurs for the smooth, delicious drink it delivers — and by campers for its simplicity and convenience. Just add coffee and hot water, stir, press, and enjoy up to three cups of coffee in about a minute. David Foster, co-owner of Kiln Coffee Bar in Grand Junction, praises its durability and flexibility in unpredictable brewing conditions. “You can’t really mess it up,” he says. The AeroPress cleans like a dream, too — no more grounds gunking up your wash water. Find it at independent coffee shops and outdoor retailers throughout the Western Slope; visit for details. To try before you buy, sample an AeroPressed beverage at Bestslope Coffee Co. in Fruita.