When you arrive at a place at night, exhausted and hungry, you get a very different impression of the place that you would otherwise. But when you see the same place in broad daylight, when you are rested and fed, you see it in a completely different light!! That is exactly what happened with us at Cameron. The place that looked so drab last night looked resplendent in the early morning daylight. There were acres and acres of flat land around us, with a strip of road cutting straight through it for as long as we could see. The only vegetation around was small dry shrubs scattered throughout. It was beautiful.
These straight, empty roads gave V a chance to enact Schumacher to his heart’s content. While I was clinging to the car window for dear life, he delighted in zipping the car at 100 MPH.
As we neared Page in AZ, we could see a thin yellow line in the blue sky. We wondered what it was, it looked like a streak of dirt in the clouds. Going closer, we found out that it was in fact dirt, pollutants rising from a couple of factories in town.
The biggest attraction at Page was the Antelope Canyon. These are canyons carved by sediments flowing in water through the red Navajo sandstone, causing classic ‘flowing effects’ in the rock. There are two main canyons here, Upper Canyon and Lower Canyon. In the summers, when the sun is high, one can see sun beams stream in to the canyons from above, creating extremely photogenic light and color effect. In winter, the beam effect does not occur, but a myriad of colors can be still seen. We decided to see the lower slot canyons, as they are supposed to be more beautiful in winter. Visits to the canyons are only through guided tours, but if you have an SLR and a tripod, they give you a photographers permit, allowing you to stay unsupervised in the canyons for two and half hours, giving ample opportunity to capture some good clicks.
The guide led us about 50 yards into the open land towards the opening of the canyons. We were puzzled, there was no canyon to be seen anywhere, just flat land. Then we saw it, there was about a foot and half wide crack in the ground. That was the entrance to the canyons, located underground (Lower Canyons, duh!). Here is a pic of the entrance.
We squeezed in through the crack, and the canyons took our breath away. They are about 5 ft at their widest, a foot at the narrowest, and about 30 ft deep. With the colors, textures and the light play, it was a photographer’s paradise. Water flowing through these cracks has polished the rocks over ages, giving it a unique texture, and rounding it off to depict the flow of water. The canyon is very narrow, and not recommended for anyone with claustrophobia. And though we did not see any, I can totally imagine that rattlesnakes could be seen in summer.
We made full use of our photographers permit, and took numerous pictures. We had taken the morning tour, and were among the first tourists of the day to start the tour. That worked out well, as we got the canyons almost entirely to ourselves for those two hours. At the end of the canyon, there is a ladder to climb out, and a half mile trail that leads back to the parking lot. Instead of climbing out, we turned back and returned through the canyon itself. That gave us different views that what we had seen while going the other direction.
It was an experience of a lifetime. I cannot say enough to convey the beauty of the place.
The famous horseshoe bend on the Colorado river is close-by from the canyons, about half a mile hike from the parking lot. This is a point where the Colorado river turns at 270 degrees around a huge rock, resulting in a horseshoe like structure of the rock. I wanted to take a picture with V appearing to sit on the center rock, with the river encircled around. It seemed to be a wonderful idea, till I realized it meant him having to sit at the precarious edge of the rock, with a direct drop of about a 1000 ft below. Alas. I made do with some pics of him standing at a safe distance from the bend.
We also made a quick visit to the Glen Canyon Dam, which turned out to be quite huge, and started on our way to experience the old west in the Monument Valley.