Stephen Trimble says he started working on “The Capitol Reef Reader” forty-five years ago without knowing it.
“I was a seasonal ranger in CR in 1975 when I was in my twenties,” he said in an interview with National Parks Traveler. “And I did what every seasonal ranger did—I started reading up on the background of the park so I could be a competent ranger and give a good campfire talk.”
As a young ranger, Trimble explored authors he calls “elders”—Clarence Dutton, Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and Ann Zwinger. Essays and excerpts from all of these authors are included in the collection.
“I found a very rich literature. It turns out that there may be a richer literature for Capitol Reef than there is for some of those other, better known, more highly visited parks,” Trimble said, referring to the other four of Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks.
He thinks that’s partly because Capitol Reef was a major through-route for travelers in central Utah. He also attributes that profusion of literature to the historic village of Fruita, which now serves as park headquarters.
“[It] gave people a sense of home. People wrote with affection and nostalgia for having grown up there,” he said.
It was also, Trimble said, an important location for archaeologists studying native cultures in the 1920s.
Shari Zollinger, who arranges author readings for Back of Beyond, interprets the collection as a “labor of love” by Trimble, as well as a look back at his own past and the many hours he’s spent exploring the area.
As Trimble said in his interview, “I’ve been writing and photographing on the Colorado Plateau, really my whole adult life.”
Trimble is a professional photographer as well as author and has included portfolios of his own photographs in the anthology. Zollinger described the images as “stunning” and said they give a pleasing quality to the book as a physical object.
“It’s a standard paperback size, but the paper is more glossy, so it feels like it’s got a little bit more of a weight to it—it feels like something you definitely want to sit down and look through, like a coffee table book,” she said.
The essays are not strictly about the park itself.
“In defining Capitol Reef in this book, I was a little loose with park boundaries,” Trimble said. “I didn’t worry too much about those zig-zag straight lines on the map.” Instead, he searched for writing that expressed the essence of what he calls “Capitol Reef Country.”
“I wanted to give the reader a primer on this park... I just went looking for the best writing I could find that captured the spirit of the place, and told us something about the park in words that did that better than anyone else,” Trimble said.
The result is a trove of voices with a deep familiarity with and love for the Utah desert.
“It’s just like a virtual Colorado Plateau literary Who’s Who of the best authors who have come out of the area,” Zollinger said of the book.
Usually, when hosting the editor of a collection at the bookstore, Zollinger also invites some of the included authors. For this event, the proximity of the holidays made arrangements difficult. Zollinger noted another reason:
“Most of these writers we couldn’t invite—they’re just not with us anymore.”
Zollinger hasn’t read the whole collection yet, but the titles of certain contributions have piqued her interest.
“I’m loving the Ellen Meloy one,” she said, referring to an essay called “A Field Guide to Brazen Harlotry.”
She plans to read that and other selections before Trimble’s presentation.
More information may be found at www.backofbeyondbooks.com