In July 1776, Franciscan friars Francisco Atanasio Dom??nguez and Silvestre V??lez de Escalante set out from Santa Fe to blaze a pathway to the new Spanish missions in California, across the huge expanse of what would become the American Southwest. Their charge was only to scout a trading route, but dearer to the padres' hearts was the mission to convert the native tribes?Navajo, Ute, Paiute, Havasupai, and Hopi?to Christianity. In October, in western Utah, ravaged by hunger and cold, the twelve men had to turn back. Stymied by the raging Colorado River, killing their horses for food, the team saw an exploring expedition transformed into a fight for survival.
In this chronicle of adventure and history, David Roberts retraces the Spaniards' forgotten route, using Escalante's diary as his guide. Blending personal narrative with critical analysis, he relives the glories, catastrophes, and courage of this desperate journey.