Speeding down the open highway you see a sign and quickly read it as you zip past. Four miles to the biggest ball of barbed wire. Scenic overlook next left. Welcome to Hastings, the birthplace of Koolaide. You instinctively and spontaneously pull over to see the named attraction. You have complete freedom to stop anywhere, anytime; that’s my favorite part about road trips.
After a morning hike in the Grand Canyon we thought we had plenty of time to make it to Page, Arizona in time for our 4:30 Antelope Canyon hike. We meandered through the forest stopping at a few more Grand Canyon scenic lookouts. After leaving the park we stopped off at other random signs pointing us in the direction of scenic overlooks and beautiful views. It was fun to be carefree.
As we left the forests and fire warnings behind, we drove into a landscape of treeless steppes glowing in orange. Suddenly my stomach started to growl reminding me that we had eaten breakfast over 7 hours ago. I looked at the map and there was very little between the Grand Canyon and Page. It was so barren there wasn’t even a McDonalds…or any kind of food anywhere to be found between the two areas. Plenty of Indian trading posts though, but I wasn’t in a shopping mood…I was in an eating mood. We munched on our emergency supply of Cliff bars, but I dreamed of real food.
As I was scanning Steve’s ipad for any towns on our way to Page, I came across an image of the famous Horseshoe Bend. I clicked through and quickly learned Horseshoe bend, a famously photographed River Canyon, was actually on our way to Page! Now I had a dilemma – food or photography; we only had time for one since we needed to be in Paige in time for our scheduled tour.
I decided my ‘lucky’ horseshoe internet find must have been fate – I could forgo eating for another few hours for the chance to photograph this well-known canyon. We followed the signs to the trail head for Horseshoe Bend, I took a swig of Gatorade and went out yet again in the unrelenting sun to hike a short ¾ mile to the unique canyon. The sun perfectly lit up the horseshoe shaped Canyon making the water appear green. The winds howled across the desert and since I was scared of heights and scared of getting blown over the edge, I slithered up to the edge on my belly in order to get the complete shot. This is where a wide angle lens really comes in handy; it was the only way to get the complete horseshoe shape.
View the final product: Horseshoe Bend
We arrived in Page just in time for the last canyon tour of Antelope Canyon. There’s only one way to see Antelope canyon – and that’s by a guided tour. The ‘road’ to Antelope Canyon is gated and only tour guides authorized by the Navajo Nation can enter. We booked with Antelope Slot Canyon Tours by Chief Tsosie.
I was expecting the canyon to be the ‘attraction’ however when I saw the truck we were all getting into; I realized half of the fun would be the ride to get there. A modified pickup truck had roll bar railings and two padded benches in back. As we all piled into the back of the truck I had images of my many travels around less developed countries where the concept of legal lawsuits weren’t as prevalent. I found this less than safe truck to be refreshing after the constant warnings we received in the national parks. The approximate 8 mile truck ride through the city of Page, out into the desert, ending with a crazy dusty, bumpy ride through the sandy river bed was definitely adventurous travel! My whole butt came off the padded bench more times than I could count!
We arrived for the last tour of the day and our guide slowly took us through the narrow slot canyon explaining the geography, but also explained all of the Navajo folklore of the canyon. Antelope Canyon is a sandstone slot canyon. It is a narrow (but easy to walk through) canyon with fantastic interior shapes created by swirling water and wind. Light enters only at the top, giving the red sandstone a glow, and illuminating purple-colored sections of stone. The canyons can be dangerous as flash floods from miles away are possible and the guides did continue to remind you of the inherent dangers of the canyon. However this dry day posed no threat as we continued to be led through the canyon with the guide pointing out hieroglyphic like shapes with Navajo explanations.
After going completely through the canyon, we were able to walk back through the canyon ourselves taking out time and taking pictures. Of course photography was challenging in such dark and changing light situations and a tripod is highly recommended. Of course, I didn’t have one, so I had to do the best I could by steadying myself against a wall and holding my breath before I clicked. If you are a photography nut, then check into the tour companies that offer special photography tours of the canyon.
The sun was quickly setting and our hour tour was finished, which meant we had another wild ride in the truck back into Page. This also meant I could finally eat. Our day was quite unplanned, but we were able to get as much out of the area as possible by simply following the road signs and being spontaneous! If you find yourself anywhere near Page Arizona, make sure you make the time to see everything the area has to offer. Random scenic overlooks, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and the Antelope Canyons. It’s a playground for photographers and adventurers alike!
Video of Antelope Canyon