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Where the Girls and the Antelope Play

Here’s the thing. Antelope Canyon was spectacular and this post is bursting with photos BUT…

Entrance to the Canyon

Entrance to the Canyon

It was a cloudy day, so the color we saw in the canyon was definitely more muted than what’s possible, not to mention it was cold enough to require winter coats. We really truly thought it was spectacular, but our enjoyment of it required us to transcend several factors: for me specifically it was my slight claustrophobia, made worse by loads of people being in the small spaces with me, and then there was the frequent proximity of our faces to foreign arm pits and elbows raised in amateur photo efforts, the few individuals who chose to bathe in perfume or cologne that morning, and the stuttering pace we had to endure as we waited for “skilled” photographers with tripods to capture their masterpieces and then picked our way around them ducking under lenses and skirting their 5-legged situations.

It is the most-visited, most-photographed slot canyon in the southwest, so I expected a crowd, but the massive bus that spewed out Japanese tourists at the tour office gave me a more clear hint at what I could expect.


We booked ourselves a tour with a company a friend had recommended – Roger Ekis Tours. Apparently, the Navajo just started requiring “permits” or guided tours in 1997. Before that you could drive or hike yourself out to the canyon and see it on your own. The locals in Page get a little misty-eyed and talk longingly about those good ‘ol days and I don’t blame them. But I’m happy that the Navajo are safe guarding it against vandalism and generating a nice revenue stream – and so a tour it was, $92 for the two of us. A significant ding to the monthly entertainment budget.

The most entertaining part was the drive out in the 4-wheel drive pick-up truck turned modern-day carriage.

Rosie's Race Car

Rosie’s Race Car

The trucks each sat 12 people tightly and the Japanese bus inhabitants filled up 5 of them, leaving our one last truck with just 8 people in it – YAY, wiggle room, boo the lady next to Ali was a perfume bather. At least it was an open air situation. I was getting settled into my seat at the end of the bench near the tailgate and figuring out that I could put my feet up onto the side of the bed of the truck for support when Rosie, our driver, came around to fold up the steps and lock us in. “We have a 20 minute ride out to the canyon, 10 minutes on the freeway and 10 minutes on a dirt road. Ennnn-jooyyyy the dirt road. It’s bumpy,” she said with a grin and both eyebrows raised.

I’d been warned by our friend about the ride and my foot holds proved very necessary, otherwise I think I would have thrown my back out. Rosie drove fast – like an ambulance driver to the hospital, like an Indy race car driver on a final lap, like a woman who really needed a bathroom because she was about to shit her pants. We fished-tailed through the sand, bounced clear off our seats, held on for dear life on curves and giggled and smiled at each other the whole time. I’d say that, yes Rosie, “We ennn-jooyyed the dirt road.”


It was crowded as I said. There were all of the Japanese gawker types that came with us, plus a similar amount of the 5-legged photographicus maximili that were already there staked out in various rooms attempting to get the perfect shot, and then us. What I found was that my walk through the canyon on foot was a bouncy of it’s own kind, a bunch of bounces over irritation.

I was standing at the back of our group, head tilted back, mouth open, staring in awe at the color and texture and curves, then someone backed up and stepped on my foot. My brain bounced off it’s skull seat and I shouted an internal “HEY!” Then I realized that it didn’t really hurt, the soft sand at the bottom of the canyon floor meant they probably didn’t even know they stepped on me. They moved and like a kid at the top of a playground slide, I slid right back down into awe.

A few paces down the canyon Ali and I came up on a photographer who informed us that she was open. We shuffled a bit and she said it again, “I’m open.” So we stepped forward to pass her. Then louder, “I’m OPEN!” To us plainicus photo-dumicus types, open meant come on through, this space is open, there’s no door here, please enter the openness I’m telling you about. Apparently even a native English speaker can be a victim of a language barrier – or in this case a lingo barrier. Forgive my ignorance, I may be wrong, but we figured out that “open” probably referred to her shutter, she had her shutter open on a long exposure. To her “I’m open,” meant “Freeze right there! I’m in mid-shot and my camera needs absolute dominance over this space.” Go figure.

And so I made my way through the canyon bouncing up into slightly bugged and then fish-tailing right back into completely awed.

Now Ali and I are certainly not great photographers and we definitely don’t have the best equipment, a Cannon point-and-shoot and our iPhones make up our arsenal. But we do try to be mindful of our subject matter, lighting, adding depth or perspective when we can and we just do our best. I’ve seen the professional photographs of this canyon and they are elegant, vibrant, mind-blowingly beautiful, something very different from what we saw with our own eyes that day. But looking at a picture will always pale to being right down deep inside, surrounded by, and towered over by a masterpiece of Water’s art.

You should go here if you haven’t already. Until then, here’s a few photos.




















At the other end

At the other end