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Editor's Note: Slow Trails

The most memorable trails can be the hardest to find. New Editorial Director Shannon Davis reflects on a trip through canyon country.

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Hi, I’m Shannon. I’m the new editorial director at Backpacker, and I’m stoked that the second big thing on my plate is to talk with you, our Basecamp Members. Huge, sincere thanks to each of you for joining and for your enthusiasm for the outdoors and to our Backpacker community.

The first big thing on my plate was pretty good, too (better, actually—no offense): packing up for our annual Editors’ Choice gear testing trip. Last week, we set out for a network of lesser-traveled canyons near Bear’s Ears National Monument in southern Utah. Guidebook author, trail runner, and social media influencer Morgan Sjogren joined us (she’ll be writing a feature story in a future issue), and the first thing she told our staff was that our intended trailhead, Arch Canyon, led to terrain that she didn’t include in her 148-page guidebook, The Best Bears Ears National Monument Hikes. Not because it doesn’t rank—it’s just such a large area, she didn’t get to it. The trails that, for whatever reason, end up left off the map or out of the book are the ones that inspire me most.

Our first day was a fairly casual stroll in perfect autumn weather. We had just eight miles to cover to get to our camp, and minimal elevation gain. In a world where we spend so much time managing our time, trying to do everything as quickly and efficiently as possible, it was an immediate and visceral joy to have a full day to do a half-day’s worth of hiking. We followed the tracks of a bear and her cub. A deer or two. Mice. Insects. The powder-fine sand immaculately preserved the comings and goings of the canyon.

We passed beneath ancient dwellings, and I spent an hour imagining where I’d build my own if I lived in that era, what a 5.7 climb to get home in sandals built from reeds would be like, and how interesting and challenging it’d be to hunt deer with a longbow in this wild terrain. Later in the day we picked a little highpoint for a sunset side hike. Morgan waved me over to point out a potsherd on the bare ground. It struck me, an open schedule and a rich landscape frees the mind in a way nothing else can.

Thought the trip was much more, our main goal task was a final round of gear testing to determine our next round of Editors’ Choice winners. We’re keeping that close to the vest for a minute, but we do have an exclusive slideshow from our trip, a behind the scenes look at the some of the best scenery and terrain America has to offer.

So, as autumn winds down and before you get out your skis or snowshoes, choose a hike low on mileage, high on reward, and…take your time.

And, as members, you have a direct line to me. Let me know what you want to see, what stories you have to share, and what trails we should cover next (or not). Better yet, join me on the members’ Facebook page at 1 p.m. MST on Friday, where I’ll be talking live about all things BACKPACKER. I’d love to have you join me and bring your questions.

Shannon Davis