Roaming herds of pronghorn antelope were the inspiration for Antelope Canyon’s English name. Nothing against the antelope, but the canyon’s Navajo name “Hasdeztwazi” (Spiral Rock Arches) seems a better fit for the whimsical geology that attracts photographers from all over the world.
Standing at the bottom of the first ladder in the Lower canyon, I felt as if I’d landed in the burrow of a manic, gifted sculptor. The swirled sandstone passageway revealed only the immediate, and as I edged through and around the billowing rock, my senses bubbled with a steady anticipation. What colors and formations would materialize around the next curve, at the end of the upcoming ladder or even just behind me if I turned to look back at where I had just been?
Creeping sunlight advanced across the sculpted walls of sand to create an ever changing canvas of colors and shadows. It was an enveloping sort of art, resplendent with deep purples, rosy reds and vibrant oranges. A silent studio where pockets of darkness and shafts of light interplayed in astonishingly lovely ways. And yet, the twisting walls of Lower Antelope Canyon are forever an unfinished work. Water and wind will continue to carve at the slot canyon, softening its edges while inscribing their definitive patterned trails into the walls themselves.
No one is allowed entry into Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon without a purchased pass. It’s safer that way. As with any slot canyon, Antelope Canyon is susceptible to flash flooding from distant storms. My photographer’s pass allowed me to wander at will, without the time restrictions and crowding of a group tour, but with access to the helpful suggestions of floating Navajo guides. Their timetable of the sun’s passage was better than a bus schedule for this photographer hoping to catch the moving rays of daylight.