Why did I love this book?
The “archdruid” in John McPhee’s 1971 narrative nonfiction book Encounters with the Archdruid is David Brower, the ardent, at times militant conservationist who spent the latter half of the 20th century fighting to protect wilderness and wild places from commercial exploitation. McPhee profiles Brower with characteristic depth and detail by bringing him together with three foes: a mineral engineer set on mining in the Glacier Peak Wilderness in the Cascade mountains of Washington; a real estate developer who hoped to build homes on what is now Cumberland Island National Seashore, and the commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which, despite opposition from Brower and others, dammed the spectacular Glen Canyon on the Colorado River to create Lake Powell in northern Arizona and southern Utah.
McPhee arranges for Brower and the commissioner, Floyd Dominy, to take a rafting trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon and later a boat ride on Lake Powell. When McPhee proposed the trip to him, Dominy likened Brower to a steer he once had on his farm in Virginia that refused to get in the truck to go to market – “an independent bastard that nobody could corral.” In the end, Dominy said, “I shot him right in the head and butchered him myself. That’s the only way I could get rid of the bastard.”