A standing-room only crowd at the Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding on February 7 was treated to the world premier of a new film.
The affair was the culmination of a six-year effort by filmmaker Chris Simon, who specializes in video and radio documentaries about the American West. Funded by the Utah Humanities Council, the film traced the life and times of Monticello’s renowned explorer and tour-guide operator, Kent Frost.
The 92 year old Frost was present. He signed copies of his book “My Canyonlands” and reminisced briefly on his life-long love affair with San Juan County. Kent was the first person to take jeep tours through the Canyon Country of southeastern Utah and he was instrumental in the creation of Canyonlands National Park.
Ms. Simon is negotiating with National Public Television and hopes to be able to have the new film entitled, “My Canyonlands: The adventurous Life of Kent Frost” featured on national television.
While the documentary has an environmentalist slant, bemoaning the loss of Glen Canyon to the waters of Lake Powell and the encroachment of civilization and development in southeastern Utah, it is mostly the story of the remarkable life of Mr. Frost.
Kent was largely responsible for bringing San Juan County to the attention of those who had the power to eventually preserve it with the creation of federally designated set-asides of national parks, monuments and wilderness areas.
Especially enjoyable for those of us who have known Kent all our lives was the story of his unique life. From the time he was a young boy, he would disappear for long periods of time, walking hundreds of miles with nothing more than a knife, a few grains of rice and a pair of long-johns.
He learned how to live off the land. At night, he would build a fire, dig a trench in the sand next to a cliff face, and fill it with hot coals. He then added another layer of sand, climbed into his long johns, bury himself in the warm sand between the cliff and the fire. Fueling his fire occasionally during the night he maintained his “reflector oven” bed and was warm on even the coldest nights in the canyon country.
On one occasion Kent and his cousin, Ruel Randall, were at a father and sons outing. When the others went home, Kent told his father that he and Ruel were going to hike home. They took off with little else but the clothes on their backs and arrived back in Monticello four weeks later, having taken a detour of several hundred miles. Kent had a mother who had great faith in his ability to survive in the wilds and no one seemed to worry much when he disappeared for weeks at a time.
Kent had rich experiences running the San Juan and Colorado rivers with the legendary river runner, Norm Neville. It was watching Neville and the success he had with guiding river trips that inspired Kent to begin his own business of guiding people into the Canyonlands in Jeeps.
Many local people were interviewed for the production, and producer Chris Simon mined the Marriott Library at the University of Utah and many other historical sources for fabulous archival footage to go along with the personal side of Kent’s life.
Kent Frost was one of this writer’s boyhood heroes. How splendid it is that he lived to witness the scope of his legend and realize how large the footprint of his life has become in the ever-shifting sands of his beloved Canyonlands.
Copies of the film are available at the San Juan Record.