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Sun Beams of Sand

Deep shadows and bursts of overhead sunlight, paired with limited sight lines and cramped spaces, created some interesting photographic challenges in Lower Antelope Canyon. At times I found myself flush with an on-the-edge exhilaration similar to that felt at cliff’s edge on a steep climb. Anchored between sandstone ledge and sandy floor, bent to catch an image that would live only in my own mind until the shutter snapped…it was an intense yet fun way to spend a morning.

More than once, light became the subject, not simply an essential element to creating the photograph. Here, as the sun makes its daily route from east to west, its rays thread sandstone windows at anticipated times. A handful of sand tossed into the light beam highlights its path creating an awed hush amongst observers, broken almost instantly by a flurry of camera shutters.

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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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