Edward Abbey worked as a seasonal ranger for the US National Park Service at Arches National Monument, near Moab, Utah, in 1956 and 1957. From April to September each year, Abbey worked at the campground, maintaining trails, greeting visitors, and collecting fees. He resided in a Park Service-provided home trailer as well as a Ramada that he constructed himself. The area around Moab was still mostly undeveloped and wilderness at the time, with just a few park visitors and limited access to most portions of the monument.
During his time at Arches, Abbey accumulated a large quantity of notes and sketches, which later provided the foundation for his first non-fiction book, Desert Solitaire. These notes went unpublished for nearly a decade while Abbey worked various jobs and tried, with limited success, to pursue other writing ventures, including three books that were commercial and critical failures. Abbey eventually returned to the Arches notes and diaries in 1967, and had them published as a book in 1968 after some editing and updating.