The Azurite Encounter
by Jane Frances Ruby
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This is a story about Sunnyslope High School seniors on a Geology field trip to the Grand Canyon. It's an annual trip over spring break and usually full of geological studies. But this time the studies are interrupted by unseasonably warm rains causing record snow melt which floods the canyons. One senior gets cut off from her group and encounters more forces of the canyon than she had ever dreamed.
It's a fictional extrapolation of some true-to-life mishaps in the Grand Canyon National Park. The characters are fictional, but their personalities come from real people from Phoenix, AZ and the author's memories of friends from her hometown.
No way could I have made this stuff up by myself. I got ideas from several sources. First and foremost were the books about the Havasupai Tribe, which included I am the Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People (Hirst), and Havasupai Legends: Religion and Mythology of the Havasupai Indians of the Grand Canyon (Sithson and Euler). I read up other articles describing the Navajo, Paiute, Yavapai, and Hopi tribes, too, but the Havasupai originally lived in a vast area of the Grand Canyon that included the major corridor trails leading down to the Colorado River.
In my book the hidden civilization had a medicine man who used local flora for remedies. So I used info from River and Desert Plants of the Grand Canyon (Huisinga, Makarick, and Watters), and Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest (Kane). I also found that several of the plants/shrubs in my own yard are convenient to have in cases of injury or sickness. Did you know that deer weed, a pesky invasive weed that everyone kills or pulls out is great for indigestion or colicky babies? I keep a bunch of it in my backyard. I just need to keep my 6.5 pound Papillon/Chihuahua mix, "Tango," out of it because the seeds stick to his fur.
Desiree's family owned and operated an organic farm in Central Phoenix, so I needed a local desert source, The Garden Guy: A Seasonal guide to Organic Gardening in the Desert Southwest (Owens) just to make sure their seasonal crops were accurate. It's also a great book for high desert plant care. At this moment I'm still having trouble growing melons before the summer heat comes. I don't know how the ancient tribes managed to do it. Maybe they planted it under the pines on the west walls of the canyons--gonna have to research that one some more.
Hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon is no easy feat. It requires careful planning as well as the right equipment, clothing, and food. Sometimes even when folks get it right things go wrong. The sources I used describing mishaps in the Grand Canyon were: Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon (Ghiglieri and Meyers), First Through Grand Canyon: The Secret Journals and Letters of the 1869 Crew Who Explored the Green and Colorado Rivers (Ghiglieri). I strongly recommend both books for information as well as entertainment. Over the Edge describes some stupid things people did before getting killed/injured, but it also described freaks of nature happening to very smart and well-planned visitors who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. First Through Grand Canyon describes all the escapades of J.W. Powell's crew. All of Powell's planning wasn't good enough for his expedition either--except for his choice of the most ablest crew at the time. If it weren't for the crew's courage, guts, and resourcefulness NONE of them would have made it through alive.
Since the story wrapped around a geology class, I needed a basic geology workbook. My geologist consultant, Mr. Ken Euge was very kind to lend me a copy of Physical Geology, 5th Edition by Plummer and McGeary. For someone like me who has zilch background in Geology, I found it very zilch-background-friendly and would recommend it to anyone needing a good reference on basic physical geology (plus it's got lots of pictures for folks like me who need more than the printed word for learning).
Of course I needed beaucoup info about The Grand Canyon. I am by no means a hard-core hiker, nor have I trekked the thousands of trails within the GCNP. I may have done about 6-8 miles of the Rim/Hermit Trail, from Desert View Drive all the way to Powell Point, and twice I've taken my girls down the Bright Angel Trail, but we never descended below the first water station because we weren't equipped for more than a 2-3 hour hike. One of these days, however I do plan equip myself to "go all the way" down despite my arthritic knees. Lately I discovered that hiking poles make climbing far less painful and more efficient. If your upper body is in better shape than your lower (like mine), I highly recommend using poles! But I digress...
Anyway, I got most my Grand Canyon info from hiking maps and blogs. The park has really good maps and DVD's about hiking. I personally recommend the Corridor Trail DVD because of the breathtaking views of the areas as you descend down. Of course it's not as good as being there.
Then there's the hiking blogs. Make no mistake--the Internet is a powerful tool for research, but at the same time it can be dated. Case in point: the blogs listed raving (and some not so raving) reviews of the The Tusayan Cafe. I drove up to the GCNP to find out for myself (Sept. 2011), but the cafe is no longer in business! Another case in point, some bloggers recommended the helicopter trip from the south rim to Supai Village. I went to the Tusayan airport to book a trip (Sept. 2011) only to find out that the Havasu Creek Flood in August 2008 killed that helicopter service! Harumpf!
Research for Voiceless Whispers
I needed a few more research sources for my sequel. In addition to the above-mentioned books and recent trip to GCNP, I also needed info about the Grand Canyon Orphan Mine. In my story, Shedi, Evaline's now 9 year old granddaughter climbed up to the rim via a cable left by the closed-down Orphan Mine Tramway. She was also seen by Royce Sumner on his descent up the Bright Angel Trail. Even though it's a fictional story, I wanted to make sure there was in fact a cable and that it could be seen from somewhere along the Bright Angel Trail. Well, I downloaded the eBook, The Grand Canyon Orphan Mine, to check 1) its proximity to the corridor trail, and 2) if any tram cable (or hoisting cable) was still lying around after the mine's closure in 1969. By the way The Grand Canyon Orphan Mine is a GREAT quick READ if you want to go back in history about this mine's operations through the eyes of its operations manager.
Shedi also has a blood disease and needs medical help from the outside world. Her diagnosis stems from a white blood cell differential performed by none other than Aunt Toni (who appeared in the first book as Dominique's Aunt). Well, she returns in the second book as a nurse's aid and medical lab technician. I used to be an MLT in my past life, but can't remember all the hematology, so I purchased a textbook on the subject. I made sure the one I got had a few good chapters (with pictures, of course) on basic blood sampling and prepping for analysis.