"The gifted young idealist who slips the bonds of civilization and prevails against the wild, or fails in the trying, is a recurring theme of the American West not to mention Hollywood.

Everett Ruess in many ways defined the template. A poet, painter and confidant to a leathery set of Western artists in the 1930s, including Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, the 20-year-old Mr. Ruess rode off into the desert of the Southwest in 1934 with two burros and a notebook full of dreams, never to be seen again. Over the next 75 years, the West became tamer, but Mr. Ruess and his legend did not, and the lingering mystery of his disappearance only added to the romantic aura of the time and fueled the periodic search for evidence of his fate.

Now the circle has been closed with a tale that is gritty and grim and scientifically gee-whiz at the same time."

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