Dan, Little Person, and I like to run. We like to run so much that we routinely sign up for long-distance trail races like Sinister 7, Spartan Beasts and Ultra Beasts, and Ragnar Trail Relays. We did our first Ragnar Trail Relay in 2018 and loved it so much we immediately decided to do another. But I must admit that when Dan suggested we sign up for the Ragnar Relay in Phoenix Arizona for Nov 2019, my enthusiasm came with ulterior motives.
I love canyons. Always have, and don’t know why. Maybe they appeal to the same part of me that loves the stark beauty of the Canadian Shield country I grew up in. Rock like that can be humbling in its age and its grandeur. Regardless, wherever we travel, I jump at the opportunity to explore whatever canyons we can find.
“Could we,” I asked, “tack on a week or so of vacation while we’re down there? Travel around a bit? Maybe visit…some canyons? I mean, we’d already be there, right? And it would be a shame not to take advantage of it, right? Little Person could learn so much about geology!” Needless to say he saw through my half-@$$ed justifications in a heartbeat. Luckily, he loves me (and my writing) enough not to care. And to say yes.
Because loving canyons wasn’t my only motivation this time. One of the novels I am currently querying (an apocalyptic modern fantasy with a fresh, female-driven twist on the zombie genre…which has succeeded, I might add, in making approx. 75% of my test readers cry) has a number of memorable settings, but the one closest to my heart is an unnamed canyon system in the American South-West (think southern Utah/northern Arizona). Twisting slot canyons, high, sheer cliffs, isolation, and the unending beauty of shifting light on stone. This trip, I realized, would be a chance to actually visit canyons like the ones I had written about in person, rather than just via google maps, pictures, and the loving words of other stories set in that landscape. Like heck I was going to miss that opportunity!
So we went, we ran, and we visited as many canyons as we could (including the Grand Canyon, which I loved, but found so big it felt impersonal, if that makes any sense). I was not disappointed, and while photos can hardly capture the beauty (or the palpitation-inducing anxiety of hiking down a 700ft cliff via a narrow, seldom-used trail), I’d like to share a few of my favorite images from the trip.