One place that we really wanted to visit while in Arizona was Antelope Canyon - the very popular slot canyon that you've probably seen before in either countless photographs or that one Britney Spears video. It's one of the most photographed places in the West, and with good reason. The inside of the canyon is stunning. It is also over-crowded and a true pain to take pictures in. But earlier this year, a photographer sold a print from Antelope Canyon for an obscene amount of money, so I'm waiting for someone to spend a few million on these photos!
To tour Antelope Canyon you have to book a tour with one of several tour groups that operate with the Navajo Nation (the canyon is on Navajo land, and each tour must be accompanied by a Navajo guide). As soon as we had the date for our trip picked out, I called to book our tour. Now you can do two different tours, a regular tour and a photographer's tour. The photographer's tour is longer and you can use a tripod. But by the time I called, all of the photo tours had long been booked.
Then I realized that there is actually two Antelope Canyons, an Upper and a Lower. The Upper is the more popular section of the canyon since it is easier to walk around in. The Lower Canyon has some steep ladders and it can be more narrow. But there were some openings still for the Lower Canyon photo tours, so I quickly booked one. The ladders and narrow walls were too much for a pregnant person, so Caroline did the Upper Canyon instead (which she says was incredible).
But we almost didn't get to do the tour. Some heavy rains led to some flash flooding in the Canyon, and it was closed for several days. My original tour was cancelled, but luckily they would open up the next day. Since we were about to leave Page and drive home, we just barely had enough time to squeeze in our tours. So early the next morning, we both left to visit the Canyon. The entrance to the Lower Canyon is indeed steep, with several tall ladders heading deep below ground.
There were only two other people on the photographer's tour, and we were led by a Navajo guide. The guide would point out different spots to take pictures, and then stood around watching as we tried to take pictures. If any other tour groups would come through she would escort them around us and even chastise them for using the flash on their cameras.
While there were only two other photographers on the tour, it was impossible to keep from getting in each others way. One of the photographers would stick her tripod right in the middle of a room, and would stay there the entire time we were there. And it seemed like just as soon as I got a shot set up, the other photographer would stroll up and then stand right where I was trying to take pictures. I'm sure I also messed up a bunch of their shots. The canyon is narrow and there isn't much room to move around.
The Lower Antelope Canyon is called Hazdistazí by the Navajo, which means "sprial rock arches." The canyon was formed by erosion, with flash floods over eons carving out the canyon and creating the soft flowing curves on the walls.
My tour guide said that after the flooding earlier, the water in the Canyon was about waist-deep and it took awhile it to dry out enough to get everything cleaned up.
There are a lot of shapes and curves that have been carved into the rock. Here the canyon created a delicate arch. I tried to get a good picture of the entire archway but one of the other photographers came in and put her tripod right at the bottom of it. So I zoomed in to crop her out and got this shot instead.
At one point the canyon got so narrow that there wasn't room to set up a tripod, and you'd hope that no one would try to walk by when you're taking a picture.
I'm not entirely sure that the two other photographers on the tour spoke English, so the guide had a hard time communicating with them. We only had two hours in the canyon, and we had eaten up a lot of that time. But one of the other photographers was taking so long that we eventually left her, with the guide occasionally backtracking to make sure she was ok.
Antelope Canyon is famous for the beams of light that shine through the canyon, but we weren't there at the right time for that. The beams appear in the summer, when the sun is highest in the sky. But it's kinda good that we were there at the wrong time because the crowds weren't as bad.
Time went by really quickly, and we were soon nearly at the end of the tour.
And then we reached the end, and headed up some stairs and through a narrow crack in the rock to exit the canyon. This is the spot where you climb out, with the guides saying "Watch your head" over and over.
After that we packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel, and started the long drive back to Arkansas. But there were a few more places that we were planning on seeing along the way...