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The Backbone of the World: A Portrait of the Vanishing West Along the Continental Divide

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  103 ratings  ·  8 reviews
In recent years, Los Angeles Times writer and editor Frank Clifford has journeyed along the Continental Divide, the hemispheric watershed that spans North America from the alkali badlands of southernmost New Mexico to the roof of the Rockies in Montana and into Canada. The result is The Backbone of the World, an arresting exploration of America’s longest wilderness corrido ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 13th 2003 by Broadway Books (first published May 13th 2002)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Ron
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I like a book that takes my assumptions about something and turns most of them upside down, and this book did that. To begin with, even though I had heard most of a radio interview with the author, I was expecting a book mostly about hiking the Rocky Mountains. Instead "Backbone of the World" is about a series of encounters with people who live and work along the Continental Divide. And Clifford uses these encounters to discuss the competing points of view of those with an interest in what's lef ...more
Janet
Jul 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Clifford writes with too much evenhandedness and too little anger about what's happening to The West to suit me. Even so, there's no doubt that he cares deeply about what's being lost. This book ought to be required reading for anyone who crosses the state lines of NM, CO, WY, ID or MT. ...more
Nate
Jun 14, 2009 rated it liked it
I enjoy the West and the Rockies, so I enjoyed it during bits and pieces, but the author was more about sharing his political agenda rather than the stories and people of the West.
James Easterson
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book when it was first published back in 2002. Now 2020 I felt it a good time to read and perhaps shed some light and understanding on the the current conflicts and attitudes of the rural right and the suburban left and the origins of the divide we see today. Pretty much nothing has changed. This book could have been written yesterday. The only thing that has changed is an even greater decline and disappearance of the wilderness, and the rise of the threat of climate change. Co ...more
M.E.
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A balanced study of the West and the people who still live like it's the West: one part romanticism of their rugged, down-to-basics lifestyle and one part skepticism about the impact they are having on the region. Quite illuminating and enjoyable. ...more
Manuel
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A series of interviews and travels with people living and working near the continental divide. Like Timothy Egan's "Lasso the Wind," it takes you beyond the stereotype of "cowboy on a cattle ranch."

One common theme across the stories is power struggles. The government, environmentalists, ranchers, real estate developers, celebrities, politicians all have their stakes in the same pieces of land. This book is set where the rubber meets the road in those interactions, where hippy hikers interfere w
...more
Michael
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Clifford is a journalist and it shines through in this book. His observations are clear and unbiased. In fact, there are few stories where he's not riding a horse, sitting in a pick-up truck or walking with an outfitter or cowboy. The stories jump all over the map along the Continental Divide of the United States. One moment you're taken for a morning coyote hunt outside of Jeffrey City, WY and the next plunged into a gathering on the Blackfeet Reservation.

The geography he travels is seen throug
...more
Erica
Oct 06, 2008 rated it liked it
An interesting take on the never-ending debate between conservationists and those who work the land of the Continental Divide for a living. Clifford shows us both sides by introducing us to ranchers, sheepherders, loggers, and miners eking out a living from the "last frontier" of North America, as well as the conservationists who fight against their practices of livestock overgrazing and stripping natural resources from the earth. The first three quarters of the book were interesting because of ...more
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