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On the Road and Underground
The locals call this The Hummingbird because of the shape. We are underground in one of the famous Antelope Canyons looking up at the sky and colors it brings out in the canyon walls. Our Navajo guide is walking us through the canyon and pointing out sites that have been photographed for cell phone backgrounds and other corporate purposes. We are all masked, a requirement in Navajo territory.
To get here we drove to a remote spot in the desert outside Page, Arizona in the far southwestern part of the State. From the Navajo-run office outside the canyon we walk downhill with our guide to the canyon entrance, a hole in the ground. Several sets of steps and ladders lead us deep into the ground for the starting point of our gradual walk uphill through Lower Antelope Canyon.
There are just four of us on the tour but larger groups follow behind. Once we reach our starting point at the bottom of the canyon, we are reminded of those following us when a water bottle dropped from high above slams into my head. Argh.
No damage done, we start our gradual ascent. The scene is other-worldly. Intense colors and curving walls greet us at every turn. Morning light filtering in from above works its magic to produce a show of light, color, and shape.
We feel no sense of claustrophobia, The cavern is immense and always light. To get a sense of scale, see if you can find the hiker in the image below.
Magical curves and shapes are everywhere, bathed in the morning light. Some are quite remarkable, like the one below.
Others are less dramatic but interesting in their own way. The exotic shapes and swirls are the work of wind and water, we are told. And, I am reminded that we carefully checked the weather before coming. Even distant rain showers can flood one of these caverns quickly.
In this moment, however, we are feeling no anxiety. Wonder at the exotic beauty and play of color have captured our attention.
It takes us about 45 minutes to make our way to the exit. One last short climb brings us to the surface not far for the Navajo office. Our trip will end with an early lunch of Navajo flat bread in a native hogan constructed nearby. The hogan is the traditional style Navajo home with its door opening facing East to capture the early morning spirits.
But before we get there, we stop at a small memorial to the dozen or more people who died in the canyon we just exited when a flash flood triggered by a far off rain storm swept through the canyon trapping all but two of people exploring that day.
Funny how this didn't make it into our guide's introductory talk before the tour began. I guess I'm happy the water I encountered in the canyon was in a plastic bottle.
It reminded me of the small sign we saw on another trip when we exited the bus to the Haulapai Tribe's Grand Canyon site. No more than three feet high, it said "Your safety is your responsibility."
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Travel, business and history with original photos.
Clinton Richardson - author, photographer, business advisor and traveler.
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