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Backpacking as a family in the Arizona desert

The Kelley family made the conscious choice to live far from the big city streets to experience the incredible solitude of a remote green oasis in the middle of the Arizona desert. They pace their lives to the rhythm of a wide variety of outdoor adventures, from climbing to backpacking, to fully immerse themselves into the state’s pristine desert wilderness.

August 30 2020

Night running

© 2019 PETZL Distribution -  Arnaud CHILDERIC

Living in the great outdoors

Lauren and John Kelly live in Verde Valley, a small slice of Arizona paradise located 20 km from Sedona along the Colorado plateau. The valley tops out at 1326m (4350 feet) elevation, and is surrounded by the amber-colored rocks and red clays of the high desert. The area’s amazing geology consists primarily of red sandstone. Lost in the middle of nowhere, the valley has a sunny, temperate mountain climate with little precipitation throughout the year. Winters prove relatively mild in spite of the altitude, and summers, while hot, are pleasant. The region is perfect for people who love the great outdoors, whether mountain biking, hiking, climbing, trail running, or camping, there is something for everyone.

Lauren and John work at Verde Valley School, a multi-cultural alternative school created in 1948. The school provides a different approach to education, and was founded on such values as global citizenship, service to others, environmental stewardship, and recognizing the value of physical labor. Lauren teaches English and outdoor sports, and John is the Assistant Head of School. Their two kids, Elias and Neve, are not yet old enough to attend Verde Valley School, but benefit from the alternative teaching methods their parents use at work.

© 2019 PETZL Distribution -  Arnaud CHILDERIC

A colorful campsite

The Kelleys spend most of their time in the great outdoors and in the small community where the school, dorms, and teachers’ homes are located. If there is one activity that the kids love, it is backpacking as a family! As soon as Lauren and John start to talk about going backpacking, their daughter, Neve, rushes off to get her pack and hiking shoes ready. Her brother Elias hurries to grab his headlamp, sleeping bag, and just the right tent for the upcoming adventure since the family owns several. Once prepped and ready, it’s time to go!

© 2019 PETZL Distribution -  Arnaud CHILDERIC

Lauren loves spending time in the great outdoors, and always prefers a campsite with a spectacular view. On this particular day they decide to set up camp near two truly extraordinary natural monuments, Cathedral Rock and The Seven Warriors. The golden hour at sunset sets the surrounding mountains ablaze with so many incredible shades of amber, red, and orange. Even as night begins to fall, the colorful sunset continues to burn for just a little bit longer. The family never tires of watching this type of natural phenomenon, and the evening glow lights up their happy faces.

© 2019 PETZL Distribution -  Arnaud CHILDERIC

Tonight, the kids are in charge of dessert and choose to make their favorite backpacking treat: roasting marshmallows over an open fire. This sugary delight’s soft texture, not quite burned to a crisp and not quite melting, showers their taste buds with sweet deliciousness. And then before heading off to bed, everyone enjoys a nice hot cup of herbal tea. The kids have their own tent and are excited to sleep in their new outdoor shelter. Using a NOCTILIGHT carrying case, they transform a headlamp into a lantern to light up the entire tent.

© 2019 PETZL Distribution -  Arnaud CHILDERIC

Rock climbing as a family

They wake up the next morning with an exciting day ahead. Once up and about, they leave camp to spend the morning rocking climbing at a spot right nearby. They often climb at this area either as a family or with kids from the school. In spite of her age, Neve climbs like a champ and sends the first part to a walk-off where her brother is standing. Lauren sends the harder upper section. She tops out, John joins her, and the two rappel back down to the bottom where the kids patiently wait.

© 2019 PETZL Distribution -  Arnaud CHILDERIC

As the weekend comes to an end, it is time for the Kelley family to return home to prepare for a brand new week in Verde Valley.


© 2019 PETZL Distribution -  Arnaud CHILDERIC

Story about the Kelley family and Verde Valley School in Arizona (USA).
Photos: Arnaud Childéric- Studio Kalice -
Written by: Anna Childéric

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