In July 1776, Franciscan friars Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestre Velez 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. In October, in western Utah, ravaged by hunger and cold, the twelve-man team had to turn back. Stymied by the raging Colorado River, killing their horses for food, the men 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, Roberts relives the glories, catastrophes, and courage of this desperate journey.