Category Archives: Canyons

I Spy from Sky High

Aside from its 7000 foot elevation and lack of community garage sales (or garages, for that matter), it was still a different sort of neighborhood.  While I might glance across my street to admire lush landscaping or to see if the neighbor who occasionally rides to my lawn’s rescue on a John Deere lawnmower is headed my way, Walnut Canyon tenants watched the inhabitants of their cliff side community for more serious considerations.

The Sinagua people’s version of the neighborhood watch was an ongoing monitoring of cross-canyon villages.  Awareness lowered the probabilities of surprises in a place where the unexpected was unlikely to be a positive event.  A cliff side perch allowed for controlled access and a passive defense.  It was community living at arms length and with a roughly 600 foot drop-off in between.

Water could be found far below.  Sometimes.  Water storage was critical as the dry season was desert dry —the Spanish words sin and agua translate to “without water.”  Food was hunted, gathered and grown on the relatively fertile soil of the cliff rims above.  Observing the neighbors in 1125 AD was more about computing essential survival information than today’s mundane curb check to verify trash collection day.

The cliff dwellings: Sinagua Style Sky-boxes

The lifestyle: Just a Wild Guess?

 

More album photos: Heather Dugan Creative on Facebook

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Launched

Thankfully, the nifty green “Lego Man” helmets we wore were only necessary for our dock walk from bus to boat.  Safety first, right?  Or maybe it was more like liability first.  I’m fairly certain it wasn’t motivated by anyone’s sense of fashion.

The boat was actually a blue raft, bobbing gently on a calm stretch of the Colorado River.  Climbing aboard, we settled ourselves as close to the cool green water as possible on an outer edge and watched the world of the canyon unfurl before us.  Through the shallower stretches, we had the same clear views of the river bed as the silent trout fishermen we passed throughout that lazy afternoon.

One of the better stories we heard that day involved kayakers sneaking onto the river during a high volume water release and setting a new speed record.  Flaunting their success resulted in being banned from the canyon for a time.  Needless to say, the adrenaline chasers worked to set things right and have been a bit more discreet in revealing any subsequent triumphs.

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Antelope Canyon: A Navajo Treasure


Following my Navajo teen guide across a barren landscape speckled by only the occasional greenish gray sagebrush, I spied no hint of a canyon. From advance reading I knew it would not be a walk into but rather a climb down to stand on the floor of Lower Antelope Canyon.  The red sand yielded no clues.

And then, there it was.  A fissure in the earth, a slender line along which the red sandstone swirled down upon itself like sand falling through a funnel or hourglass. I swung my photographer’s pass and camera over my shoulder to dangle down my back, twisted myself around and began climbing down a metal ladder.

Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona had always been just beyond reach in previous travels.  It’s a destination —not a casual add-on to a southern Utah or Grand Canyon vacation.  Situated in the crook of where Highway 98 bumps into Highway 89, Page, Arizona’s main map-worthy attraction is the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the north.  Many travelers miss Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons on the Navajo reservation just to its south, but I’d imagined walking amidst the twisting red sandstone walls for too many years to pass them by. And to finally climb down into this ethereal underground world of childhood fantasy was like walking into the landscape of a favorite painting.

For more on Lower Antelope Canyon, click the link below.

More Lower Antelope Canyon photos

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