Salvation Canyon: A True Story of Desert Survival in Joshua Tree

By Ed Rosenthal

172 pages with color search and rescue map.
June 2020. Paperback.
Ebook also available.

$16.95 | 9781733957977

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A Los Angeles poet’s hiking vacation turns deadly in soaring Mojave heat; his true survival story leaves you with chills.

Ed Rosenthal, “The Poet-Broker”, advocates for historic properties in downtown Los Angeles and negotiates to save them. In 2010, after closing his biggest deal, he skips town to Joshua Tree National Park, only to find himself inexplicably lost. Over six grueling days without water, food, or hope, snippets of his life and his hard-knock youth in Queens play over the inspiring yet deadly landscape in soaring 120-degree heat. The God of Random Chance has, despite his best efforts his whole life, finally caught up to him. He describes his ordeal and its setting in intimate, vivid detail: surreal visions mix with wayfinding and intuitive wisdom in a poet’s-eye view of the life-lessons and magic that the desert can hold. 

Rosenthal’s shocking ordeal was covered on The Discovery Channel, local broadcast, The Weather Channel, in Los Angeles Magazine, and in an interview with Dick Gordon for “The Story” on National Public Radio. In 2014 he was the subject of an episode of “Fight to Survive” with Bear Grylls on The Outdoor Channel.


The writing is marvelous, the language wholly appropriate, with snatches of humor defying the reality. Salvation Canyon is a wondrous cautionary tale, enjoyable because of what can only be termed ‘a happy ending.’
– Jane Menaster, Manhattan Book Review (5 stars)

Ed Rosenthal maps out the dangerous journeys of the heart and the imagination in that hallucinatory place between mind and body, between nature and man, between his past and future.
– Elena Karina Byrne, poet and Poetry Director, LA Times Festival of Books

Broker Ed Rosenthal, 64 had just closed a lucrative deal on a Los Angeles landmark, Clifton’s Cafeteria, and decided to celebrate by taking what he thought would be an afternoon hike in Joshua Tree National Park desert. But the afternoon hike turned into a six-day nightmare when Rosenthal got lost. Search teams on horseback and in helicopters combed the area, but, as time dragged on, did not expect to find Rosenthal alive… He was missing during one of California’s worst heat waves in years.
ABC News

Rosenthal, who is Jewish but not particularly devout, prayed… He prayed for rain, and 10 seconds later it rained. He lay down in amazement and the drops wet his parched tongue.
LA Times

Clarity beams through … Salvation Canyon. Retracing his steps, [Rosenthal] identifies each arroyo. Gives them names. Replays the colors and textures of sand and shrubs. The depictions are 4G, hyper-real, exact. They rivet you in [his] engrossed mind and dying body. But something primordially creative also erupts that lifts Salvation Canyon above the survivor-memoir genre and touches on the elemental power of consciousness…. The intensity of [Rosenthal’s] psyche inscribing itself on its surroundings recalls the “ancient poets” described by William Blake in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Possessed of a poet’s sensibility, death breathing down his neck, […] he lives Blake’s apprehension that the gods reside within.
– Jack Skelley, Los Angeles Review of Books

Ed Rosenthal’s gripping Salvation Canyon is about a desert hike gone wrong and a transformative, face-to-face confrontation with death…. The narrative is poignant as it reveals the clash between Rosenthal’s longing to merge with the beauty he saw around him, including the daytime landscape brushed with glowing color and clear night skies awash with stars, with nature’s indifference to his plight. With death near, Rosenthal wrote loving notes to his wife and daughter. Lonely, he allowed a lowly fly to befriend him. He prayed. A light rain fell. And, on the seventh day, he heard a helicopter and rejoiced. Intimate and moving, Ed Rosenthal’s memoir shows how the desert that almost took his life also laid claim to his heart.
– Kristine Morris, Foreword Reviews

What Ed did next was inspired and most probably saved his life… He began to write….
– Bear Grylls, “Escape From Hell”


Photo Bradford Rogne Photography

Ed Rosenthal is a poet and real estate broker in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) who has been at the epicenter of a decades-long revitalization effort of the historic area. Combining issues as diverse as real estate deals, minority contractors and homelessness, his socially-oriented poetry has been published in venues from large to small to unusual. In 2002 the Wall Street Journal published a series of his rhyming couplets in which he admonished short-sighted developers. A 2003 LA Times feature covered Rosenthal’s “Poetic Request for an Extension of Escrow,” citing the poetry which helped foster DTLA redevelopment. Rosenthal is the only poet to be published in the magazine of the prestigious Urban Land Institute in Washington D.C., Urban Land.

He performs his poetry publicly, including at Beyond Baroque, events with the LA Community Redevelopment Agency and in old Downtown theaters like The Orpheum. In 2013, he published his collection The Desert Hat (Moonrise Press) based on a near-death experience in the Mojave Desert in 2010. Most recently his poems have been published in various California journals and with the Sierra Club. He lives in Culver City with his wife, Nicole.