Abbey was born in the town of Indiana, Pennsylvania and grew up in nearby Home, Pennsylvania. He studied at the University of New Mexico and the University of Edinburgh. In the late 1950s Abbey worked as a seasonal ranger for the United States Park Service at Arches National Monument, near the town of Moab, Utah, which was not then known for extreme sports but for its desolation and uranium mines. It was there that he penned the journals that would become one of his most famous works, 1968's Desert Solitaire, which Abbey described "...not [as] a travel guide, but an elegy."
Abbey died in 1989 at the age of 62 at his home near Tucson, Arizona.
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