Monday, March 4, 2013

For the People Who Love Kaitlin Kenney

Kaitlin Kenney prior to running Hermit on her birthday, January 6, 2013.
© Sophie Danison 2013
The night before I hiked into the Grand Canyon I was contacted by a friend of Kaitlin Kenney's. He had read an essay I had written about Kaitlin entitled The Way We Die. Kaitlin had gone missing while camped on the banks of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. She had just turned 21. The young man found me though Facebook and we chatted. He told me Kaitlin was his first love. They had been together for three years, and that even after their romance had ended their friendship remained strong. He said he was having a very difficult time since Kaitlin's disappearance. He described her as "a magic maker, an unconditional lover to all and a bright shining light in a weary world."

This young man was not the first to contact me since writing the essay about a young woman I have never met. Since it was first posted, I have heard from other friends and relatives of Kaitlin's. All of them struggling to reconcile themselves with the loss of this young, smart, and clearly vivacious woman. And with each contact I feel touched by and pulled into Kaitlin's story.

So, while chatting with the young woman's dear friend, I offered to do something for him while down at the river.

It is not easy to get to the Colorado. It takes either a river trip or an 8 mile hike down, down and down. I was leaving to take that hike the next morning, so I offered to make a memorial for his friend: a simple stone cairn built on a point with a good vista of the river. I offered to put this young man's name beneath the stones, then he asked me to include another name, and then while hiking down, I thought it needed to be more inclusive still.

I hope I have not invaded anyone's privacy, but for what is worth, here are pictures of what I made for Kaitlin. Perhaps it is the kinship I feel for anyone who loves the Grand Canyon. Or the kinship I feel for those that raft the swift cold water that carved it. Perhaps it is me, my age, or that I am a mother and a sister and a daughter, or that I still clearly remember that deep locked in connection of first love. Whatever it is, this is for the people who love Kaitlin.

Rock cairn made from Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granate

The cairn is on river south, across from Bright Angel Camp near Phantom Ranch

This went under the cairn


  1. From someone who loved Kaitlin, and shares my grief with her many friends and family, thank you for your thoughtfulness.

  2. Thank you, gentle Naseem. You understand that Kaitlin is now, with the help of your kind deed, part of the magnificent natural wonder that is the Grand Canyon.

  3. I love and miss her so much. Thank you.

  4. Thank you so much for this. I have been backpacking and know the power of a carin. It is a sign of moving forward and being on the right path and this is a perfect way to remember Kaitlin .

    If you would like you can read my blog..

    1. Amanda, that is a beautiful way to look at the cairn—moving forward. Thank you for including the link to your blog. I will continue to watch for your posts. And best of luck in your career as a journalist. I very much enjoyed my time working for public radio.