Vermilion Cliffs

This past week, my friend Charles Corson and I made a road trip to Vermilion Cliffs in Northern Arizona to see a retired co-worker from Kitt Peak named George Will. George operated telescopes until he retired about five years ago. Here I am with George on a hike we took along a ridge that paralleled the Paria River, which feeds into the Colorado River.


The Vermilion Cliffs are just north of the Grand Canyon. I love the area, as I’m sure many who have read Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves can guess. Soon after he retired, George found a place to rent adjoining the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. This is the view outside his window.


Besides going to see George, this was a great opportunity to get out and exercise. I’ve been hearing a lot recently about research that indicates exercise is necessary for healthy brain function. I certainly have found that a daily walk does a lot to make me feel better and more mentally alert. What’s more, I’ve also heard about research that indicates the necessity of getting out in nature. Our brains seem to be wired such that spending time in wild areas helps us out considerably. Here’s a photo Charles took of me walking along a small tributary canyon that feeds into the Grand Canyon.

Dave Exploring

I didn’t really go on this trip with any particular research goals for upcoming works, but I always like to keep an open mind about the history of a region. It’s hard to say what you might see that might be an idea down the road. At the point where the Paria River feeds into the Colorado Rives is Lee’s Ferry. It’s named after John D. Lee, a Mormon who ran the only ferry crossing across the Colorado River. Due to the geography of the region, it’s one of the few places where you can access the river from both banks for hundreds of miles. John D. Lee ran the ferry from 1870 until his execution in 1876, for his involvement in the Mormon Meadows Massacre. The ferry service continued until 1929 when the first bridge was built across the Colorado. Here’s the view of the Lee’s Ferry Crossing.


Not only do I find inspiration from history, but from the land itself. Sometimes on our hikes we would wander through an area and I would think about what kinds of stories I might set there. Is this a place on Earth or on a distant world? At this point, I don’t know, but several places such as the one below are filed away in my subconscious waiting to see what it does with them.


My only problem with a trip like this is that it has to come to an end. However, I did receive some good news on the trip. My editor is nearing the end of her second pass of The Astronomer’s Crypt and the anthology Lost Trails Volume 2: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West is in its final round of production. I hope to have more news about both of these projects soon.

8 comments on “Vermilion Cliffs

  1. Gary Davis says:

    Great photos, David! Thanks. They remind me a little bit of some Mars photos I just saw this morning, except that the Earth rock formations are presumably sedimentary in origin. Being a science fiction writer, of course, you are always welcome to “visit” the Red Planet as well as the Wild West.

    Also, I’m wondering if the Vermilion Cliffs are a good place to look for dinosaur fossils.

    Glad you had a good trip with you friends.


    • Thanks, Gary. The period is right for dinosaur fossils. The sediments were formed during the Jurassic, but I seem to recall the area was a receding inland sea. There are dinosaur fossils and tracks not far from the area we were in. I did see what I thought were brachiopod fossils (basically ancient sea shells) and what appeared to be a leaf and stem. If you continue northward, you can find a lot of dinosaur fossils in Colorado and Utah.

  2. ericamilesx says:

    David, you are certainly a voyager, an explorer, and thankfully, a most persistent writer! It’s nice to get the historical and geographical background to the stories you create. And it’s also be nice to be reminded about the importance of exercise for a healthy lifestyle. Even though I am mobility impaired, I still try to work out, and thanks to my now reading your blog post, I’m going for a walk in the hallway in my apartment building. It may not be an awesome trail by a river, but it’s still a form of exercise available for a disabled city girl.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Erica, and thanks for the kind words. Most of my hikes are through my neighborhood, which certainly isn’t as photogenic as this, but always great to get out and be active where you can.

  3. That’s beautiful country, all right. Hope you used sun-screen, though! 🙂

    • Thanks! We did use sunscreen, although it wasn’t sunny as often as the photos might give the impression. Seemed like lots of spring storms were rolling over while we were there, though fortunately none were severe!

  4. Incredible geology, very inspiring.

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