Somewhere in the badlands of Utah is a canyon called Davis Gulch. Centuries ago, the Ancestral Pueblo carved a dwelling in its rock, now inscribed with the words ‘NEMO 1934’. This is the last known signature of the vagabond Everett Ruess. The epithet ‘vagabond’ was his own, and rarely has the term been so richly deserved. An aspiring artist and writer from a bohemian home in Los Angeles, Ruess set out at the age of 16 on an uncompromising quest to seek out beauty and solitude in the rugged wilderness of the American south-west. Over the next four years he travelled the mountains, deserts and canyon-lands of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, alone but for the company of his burro and occasionally a dog. At the age of 20 he disappeared. ‘NEMO’ might have been a reference to Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – another notable seeker of solitude – or else the Greek for ‘No Man’, as employed by Odysseus.