The body of Ken Johnson was found today in Davis Canyon, outside of Canyonlands National Park. His Jeep became stuck in sand, and while trying to dig it out he suffered a major heart attack. He was found 60 feet from the vehicle under a cedar tree, still grasping the shovel.
I got to know Ken a couple of years back on 3-day trek in the Mojave National Preserve. It was a very interesting trip to say the least, on our final day we had a thunderstorm roll in over top of us. We huddled in a rock shelter together waiting for the storm to pass, only to exit and find my Jeep submerged in raging flash-flood waters.
Since that time we had visited off and on, meeting up at Valley of Fire, and exchanging phone calls and email.
Ken was a tough man. He was a Colonel in the USMC, completing three combat tours in Vietnam and the Gulf War. He was also highly educated, and had an emphasis in all of his work on educating the public (especially children) about cultural resources and archeology.
In April of 2013, Ken lost his brother Stephen Johnson, a climber to a tragic accident. While climbing in Arizona, Stephen was stung hundreds of times by bees, leaving him dangling from the ledge he was repelling. This prompted Ken to start the Steven Wallace Johnson Center for Popular Stewardship, which focused on preserving our natural and cultural resources.
I will miss Ken, I have learned a lot from him in the couple of years that I got to know him. At the same time, I am glad that he went doing what he loved in a land that he loved. Happy Tails my brother!