Antelope Canyon: where the deer and the antelope do not play

Once Troy mangled his ankle in the Subway in Zion, all thoughts of hiking such trails as “Fat Man’s Misery” were out of the question, so we got in the car and drove to Page, Arizona. (Note: I love that there is a canyon called ‘Fat Man’s Misery’). Page is the gateway town next to Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam and it’s famous for being next to Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam. This area is desert. The kind of desert with rocks and scrub and not a lot else. This is why we gave it to the Indians. No one at the time could think of a single reason to keep it for white people. As usual, we were short-sighted.

On the surface of things, this is what the area looks like:

You're probably thinking your ancestors made a good deal to give this to the Navajo

Take a few steps in and this small crack in the earth opens up and your job is to fit through this crack and drop down underground:

The entrance to Lower Antelope Canyon: I'll bet you're regretting that extra cupcake about now.

Welcome to Lower Antelope Canyon. To the best of my knowledge, there are zero antelope here which is kind of disappointing. I saw one cow down the road, but One Cow Canyon does not have a good advertising vibe to it. Maybe the Navajo are on to something because this place had a  boat load of people waiting to get in on the 24 person-limit tours at $26 per person. Tours leave every 30 minutes, so suck it, white man, the Navajo  are cashing in.

Getting into Lower Antelope Canyon requires that you navigate a series of metal ladders on a near vertical descent without handrails. This is the kind of place that makes lawyers wince.

Troy, sitting part way up one of the ladders.

Once you get to the bottom, you squeeze through a series of curved walls 24 inches apart. Ahead of you is a fantastic display of color, light and shapes sculpted by water:

Lower Antelope Canyon in all its glory.

It is overwhelming and you can’t help but be struck by this canyon as there is literally no place else on earth like this.

It really does look like this.

These slot canyons look like this because of violent flash floods – rocks and debris and the sheer force of water carve the canyon walls into amazing shapes. In August of 1997, 11 people died in this canyon in a flash flood. You are 35 to 50 feet below ground and there is nowhere to go if the water shows up. It pays to pay attention to the forecast, not just there but upstream as well.

How cool is this?

Your tour guide will point out features you may miss and they always know where to take the best pictures from (thank you Victor).  Don’t forget to tip your guide because the legions of European travelers generally don’t know they should. This is not a place for anyone with balance issues, orthopedic issues or an inability to stuff yourself into a narrow crack in the earth. For those who want to see the beauty but without the 2.2 degree of difficulty in getting in, Upper Antelope Canyon is across the road and you can walk in as it is perfectly level and flat.

Upper Antelope Canyon can be walked through by anyone, except Earl who was this old guy who staggered around in front of us two years ago. But I digress.

This is a bucket list place.

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Antelope Canyon

I was again dragged from sleep by my husband this morning, this time for an excursion to Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is in Arizona near Glen Canyon Dam and is on Navajo land. I was expecting to see a canyon filled with antelope, but I was told the antelope left the canyon in the 50s. The canyon is now filled with tourists, apparently mainly German, but they have not renamed it German Tourist Canyon. We arrived at the tour site as directed. It is worth noting that Arizona remains the only state that gives the proverbial finger to the rest of the United States and refuses to adopt daylight savings time. I guess they think they have enough sun and don’t need more of it. The tour site is run by Navajo who conveniently own the land on which the slot canyon is sited. If the federal government had foreseen what a cash cow this place was to become, they would have shipped the Navajo farther west.  Lucky for the Navajo that our ancestors were lazy.

Getting to the site was an adventure. They line you up and have you crawl in to the back of a 4 wheel drive truck with big tires, 2 long bench seats that comfortably seat 5 and then shove 6 on each side and make you share a seat belt. The back of the truck is covered with a fancy tarp. Our driver and tour guide, Angie, wasted no time hauling out of the parking lot and getting on the road.  Angie could give pointers to the guys that do that crazy off road race in the deserts of North Africa.  The only thing that would have made me feel less secure on the road would have been if Angie had heaved an empty  bottle of Mad Dog out the window as we careened through the desert or yelled “Hey watch this”.

Once we got there, we got our $64 worth. Angie made sure we got there before anyone else so we could get pictures without anyone being in our way. This ultimately turned out to be futile due to the presence of Earl, but it was a nice gesture. The canyon rises up in front of you at the end of what appears to be a wide dry riverbed. The pictures taken by famous photographers do not do this place justice. It is exceptionally cool and I highly recommend it.  I do recommend however wearing Teva’s or some other sandal and not water shoes as your shoes will fill with fine red sand which will then trail behind you in a Hansel and Gretel way for the rest of the day. The canyon is famous for the light beams that shine down from cracks in the ground that open on to the slot canyon below. In some places, the canyon is the width of a good sized dining room and in others, just three feet wide. I was relieved to see that the canyon was wide enough so my chest did not get stuck in a narrow passage. Because Troy and I have the luck of the Cherokee and not the Irish, our tour was cursed by passing rain clouds and the presence of Earl. Earl is a white elderly man who wandered through the canyon in the middle of everyone’s picture carrying a video camera at least 15 years old and absolutely oblivious to the throngs of people who wanted to get pictures of the canyon without Earl. This is Earl:

Earl, stylin' in the desert with his Super 8

Earl is blurry because these photos take long exposures and Earl is a perpetual motion machine of an old man.

Once the tour concluded and we returned to the starting point, we attempted to tour Glen Canyon Dam, but they refused to allow us in with a camera bag. I find it odd that security will not allow white middle aged people to tour with a camera bag (or purse) in tow, but just ½ mile away on a cliff is a platform created to provide an unobstructed view (and open shot) of the dam for any terrorist with a rocket launcher. I’m just sayin’. So we drove up to Wahweap overlook and looked at the marble canyons and the water and the dam from the backside.

After six days in the desert, I am beginning to feel canyon fatigue. What was new and novel is now starting to seem old hat. I feel much like I did in the museums of Europe: “Another Madonna col Bambino” by Michelangelo. Yawn.

Antelope Canyon, sans Earl