Havasupai Canyon

Finding the Path of Light Through Glen Canyon

Apr 15, 2023

I was cruising, as one does, on social media, slowing to admire only a few pictures but rarely reading the empty calorie captions from a channel that increasingly has zero substance, when I came across a striking picture paired with stunning words.

I was looking for information about the Glen Canyon region that straddles Utah and Arizona but I had specificity in mind.  I wanted to hear from someone who went beyond the front door of any given wild place.  I wanted to hear about the stories collected when spending time in a place that grows so familiar that it becomes home. I wanted to see the little known places where I could tag along far into the backcountry where the rare few wander.

When I found Morgan Sjogren’s Instagram account, I knew I was on the right path as I followed her along the dirt trails that led through not only the heart of the desert region surrounding Glen Canyon but to the realization that she had taken her gift of writing and had blessed us with a book.

With a Path of Light: A Walk Through Colliding Legacies of Glen Canyon advanced reader copy in hand, I had no idea of the odyssey ahead of me.

I was expecting a book that was an even mix of Indiana Jones crossed with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild because that seems to be the preferred storytelling style of most outdoor adventure books. This book was neither and I walked away better for that reason. Here’s why:

As much as I love a spiritual adventure book centering on the “I found myself in the outdoors” theme, I also recognize that written work of that sort could be limited by the much loved storyline of the main character and their journey of internal struggles being healed by external hardships of a long-distance hike. Pair this with an especially enticing cherry on top of the story with the archaeologist angle and the result is a low hanging, mostly winning combo…but one lacking the more difficult to obtain level of “it’s not about me but so much more” deep dive for which I was hoping.

This high level of writing is a tall order, yes, but this endeavor, if done masterfully, also places an author alongside the likes of Jon Krakauer, Sebastian Junger and Kevin Fedarko.  Morgan Sjogren accomplished just this by stepping back to make room for the unique voices she painstakingly nurtured. Sjogren humbly assigned herself a supporting role and hit her mark every time when she made the multi-faceted subject matter of the Glen Canyon region and its many stewards, yes, Charles Bernheimer, but also, and arguably more important, the living and recently passed First Nation guardians, to be the main characters of her book.

Advocacy seems to be the chosen style of storytelling for Path of Light and, with this angle, the author carefully molds all of her profoundly knowledgeable sources into deferential tour guides of difficult subject matter. Not once did I feel lectured or chastised but instead, I felt…inspired. I was moved to care about these issues that seem to be isolated to the Glen Canyon area and desert southwest, but, clearly, are not.

It is Morgan Sjogren’s carefully crafted narrative journey that propels this book artfully ever onward like a gentle undercurrent as it carries us through the radiating ripple effect caused by the damming of Glen Canyon. When we encounter various rough currents created by hard truths, the writer eddies out often to provide a safe place to teach us about the present Colorado River water crisis, colonization, climate change, land stewardship, cultural and gender imbalance by way of thoroughly researched education.

Before long, I found myself in the final pages of Path of Light as I figuratively stepped out of this journey feeling like a student who was recruited to become an advocate of a region I now longed to intimately know as opposed to a pupil now burdened with backpack full of shame. I felt a little sad to say goodbye to these characters and their heroic efforts to continue their activism despite the generations-spanning odds they’ve fought in the inherited collision zone of lifetimes of wrongs slowly but surely made right.

Author Morgan Sjogren is the author of Outlandish: Fuel Your Epic and two guide books The Best Bears Ears National Monument Hikes and The Best Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Hikes …all of which I will be reading and carrying with me as I explore these lands that I now care so much about.



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