My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction. Awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction. (see the following web address for more information) http://www.newsouthbooks.com/pages/2015/10/20/halley-wins-moonbeam-awards-silver-medal/ Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon
Well, folks, I’m a liar. The last time I let my adventure-loving
husband talk me into exploring a slot canyon, I said, “Never again.”
Then we went out West again a few weeks ago, and he talked me into it
one more time. “It’s not a bad canyon,” he said, and I pictured a
gang member canyon, ready to slice us up in a rumble.
“This one’s not dusty and crowded like Antelope,” he continued. “Not
hard to find like Wild Pony Canyon. No thirty mile dirt road to get
to this one.”
I grunted. “Wasn’t this trip going to be about fossil hunting?”
He nodded. “Best part–it’s loaded with fossil rocks.”
He claims now that I imagined the promise about fossil rocks. But I’m
sure he said, “We should have three gallons of water. And I’ll need to
take my large format box camera.”
“The one that weighs a hundred and seventy-five pounds?” I asked.
“I’ll carry everything,” he promised.
“You’ll have to.” Since my back problems started, I don’t even carry a purse.
We started right after breakfast that morning, driving about thirty
miles on pavement and then five or six on washboard dirt road.
Finally, we turned on to a faint trail that bumpedity-bumped down to
the bank of an almost dry stream bed.
Benjamin loaded up his pack and reluctantly decided to leave lunch.
“We’ll be back by noon,” he predicted.
At first, walking wasn’t bad. We stayed mainly on the dryer part of
the stream bed. Then the stream turned into a rocky, sandy wash.
Rocks were plentiful and colorful. Every now and then we spotted a
small piece of petrified wood. Otherwise, no fossils.
The wash opened into another, bigger wash and a few minutes later into
a still bigger one. Rising fingers of reddish-orange land covered
with prickly dessert plants separated the washes. “You sure you know
the way back?” I asked.
Benjamin nodded. “Follow the washes. And we can see our footprints.”
Finally, we spotted far up ahead what must be the beginning of the
slot canyon. The sun was straight up now and no shade was to be had.
There was nothing to squat behind for a bathroom break either.
“Who’s going to see you out here?” Benjamin asked when I complained.
Probably nobody, but still, I wanted some kind of blind. I finally
saw a boulder that might serve and headed for it. Sweet relief! But
when I’d finished, there was another problem. My bad back and my bad
knee seemed joined in a conspiracy to keep me from standing. Then,
only a few inches from my feet, a small mouse scampered around the
rock. His fearful black eyes looked into mine questioningly.
Benjamin laughed and offered me a hand. “He wants to know where the
Ark is. Good thing he has another exit.”
We passed a number of other intersecting washes before we reached the
entrance to the canyon. And soon after that, I found a shady place
and lay down to rest.
My husband forgets time when doing photography, so it was considerably
later when his stomach complained enough to get his attention. “Ready
to go?” he asked, shaking me awake and offering me water.
“An hour ago,” I mumbled, but he was already heading out.
“We’ll cut across,” he yelled back, striding over the first of the
fingers of land jutting into the wash. “We’ll save time getting
We went at a near jog pace, cutting across every finger of land.
Suddenly Benjamin came to a dead halt. Just ahead here was a long
unused fence crossing the wash ahead. Part of it lay on the ground.
“I don’t remember that,” he said.
Neither did I. I looked around. The only footprints were the ones
we’d just made. “Are we going to die out here?” I said.
Benjamin scrubbed his face with his handkerchief, “We just have to go
back and find where our footprints came out of the first stream bed.”
So we backtracked into several wrong stream beds. None had
Suddenly I heard the faint sound of a car in the distance. Benjamin
scrambled up the nearest hill for a better view. “The next wash is
the right one,” he called down.
It was, though nothing about it looked familiar.
When we got back to our car, we had the best lunch we ever eaten. Best
of all, Benjamin declared himself finished with slot canyons–for this