Chris worked at Canyonlands Field Institute for many years, starting out as an intern in 1993 and returned for 10 seasons. Chris shared his knowledge and love of canyon country, his guitar playing and beautiful smile with over a thousand school children and many Elderhostelers. He mentored CFI’s annual batch of interns, grad students and co-workers, remaining in touch with most over the years.
Though playful in nature, he also challenged himself intellectually, spiritually and physically. One winter, he completed a solo canoe trip, paddling down the Green River to the confluence and back up the Colorado, “Denis Julien style.” He landed at Potash as icebergs formed.
Chris was born in New Jersey on Nov. 15, 1960, to Susanne Isbill and Walter Phelps. A lifelong student, Chris decided in his 40’s to complete a masters degree in somatic psychology. He was diagnosed with cancer just as he started to work as a therapist in 2011.
Chris is survived by his parents; his brother, Andy; and a large cadre of friends from across the country, all of whom provided loving support in these past months.
His final days were spent in Zen hospice.
His close friend from graduate school, John Azzizzi, wrote in tribute: “Chris will be remembered for many things but above all, he will be remembered for the depth, fierceness and beauty of his love … for his friends, for the natural places, for the world and for the this amazing life. He will be dearly missed.”
There will be a Moab Celebration of Life and River Wake for Chris held in coming months, hosted by his Utah friends and Canyonlands Field Institute. Date and details will be forthcoming.