Friday, November 16, 2007

Galloping herds of Antelopes...give it its fabled name - Antelope Canyon

Continuing east on Hwy 64 and then north on US 89, little did we think, that our next destination would leave such a lasting impression on us, for a lesser known quaint town of Page in Arizona became the most talked about highlight of our entire journey.
About two and half hours by road from the east rim of Grand Canyon, the trip to Page, AZ was a visual delight throughout. Running almost parallel to the road, the soaring vermillion cliffs kept us company and offered constantly changing kaleidoscopic views from all angles of the car windows.
In its core (quite literally), the town of Page, holds dear its most sacred secret.

After grabbing a quick bite at the heart of town (which offers all fast food options), we were ready to embark onto possibly one of the most adventurous parts of our trip. Looks can be deceiving and I urge you not even for a moment to suspect this to be a laid back town with not much to see or is quite the contrary you will realize once you read further.
Antelope Canyon is a one-of-its-kind natural formations of otherwise popularly known Slot Canyons. What lends to its unique character is the fact that these canyons are formed by the carving/erosion of soft Navajo sandstone by the sheer forces of nature (rain water and wind). But what you are least prepared for, is the off-the-beaten-path approach and the unbelievable spectacle that awaits you!

Since the canyon is situated within the Navajo Tribal Park, it can be accessed only via guided tour led by tribal leaders. Depending on the nature and duration of the tour, it is priced anywhere between $30 - $50 per person. Totally worth every penny. Trust me! Just the drive upto the slot canyons feels like a safari...complete with its own 4WD ride over desert like sand, actually dried up river beds as we understood them to be later. The song that was perpetually running through my head was La Bionda's Sandstorm..."dust in my my ears..." because it was so true... excitement built up even as fine grains of sand lined the inside of our mouths!


An inconspicuous exterior looked no different from a crack in the wall albeit a large opening. It was after stepping into the dark chamber, when our guide raised her torch to reveal formations never ever seen or heard of before. Could such a place truly exist? Isothermal patterns left fossilized impressions on the soft sandstone that framed the crevices and steep canyon walls around us. The insides had been smoothened down from years of erosive water action. It was only later our guide revealed the secret of these gentle undulating wave like formations all along the 120 foot high canyon walls. Coming in from the north, during the monsoon season, Antelope Canyon sometimes experiences flash floods that intensify as they gush through the tiny aperture of an opening and through the mile long narrow slot canyon. In its wake, these flood waters sculpt the soft navajo sandstone grain by grain and finally run off into Lake Powell on the south. Our guide was quick to point out tree trucks and other plant debris caught in the high 60 ft crevice of the canyon walls (imagine how high the waterline might have been). And she made it a point to let us know that the nearest tree grew more than 40 miles away! The floor on which we were treading, was actually the streambed. Thank goodness it was the dry season!

What was marvelous to watch and learn, was the fact that at times, these rain waters could rub off many inches of stone from one area, and add many more inches of deposit in another. Its no wonder then, that the passage could at times be as wide as a car length and in places as narrow as a person's waist! So what you see today could morph into something entirely different another time. Isn't that fascinating ? But that is just the you are walking through its dark chambers, you witness occasional shafts of light beams piercing right through from narrow slit like openings on the canyon roof to illuminate the river bed momentarily. It is a sight to behold that lasts a little more than a blink of the eye. The time of day and season strongly dictate this phenomenon. Regardless, its ethereal beauty is seen in the vibrant display of color bands that crisscross forming a giant tapestry hung from ceiling to floor. The highest elevations capture sunlight which is bounced off to other parts of the canyon walls, creating a painted palette of stone like none other.

As history goes, a long time ago, herds of pronghorn antelope roamed freely in the area which lent the canyon its name. But what one experiences here is a bejeweled brilliance of colors, light and magnificent natural form. It is believed that the native navajos would probably pause before entering out of respect and reverence. Having been here, this place rightfully demands it from you. You find yourself invariably soaking in its beauty, peacefulness and spirituality. It is most definitely a place to be revered and to be remembered for a long time.  Page, Arizona within its core (quite literally), held dear its most sacred secret. One that I am glad to have experienced and shared with all of you. Go here you MUST!

TIP: This is a photographer's paradise. I could only fit a select few with this article...there are more posted in my travel blog for you to see. Delayed timer photographs reward you with a keepsake for life. Take your tripod along, and try to go catch the early morning sun filter through and create magic for the lenses...both human and those of the camera! Either way, there is no denying you'll fall in love with this place.

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