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We visited Antelope Canyon (it's a heavily-photographed slot canyon… - One a day, plus iron
December 13th, 2013
05:59 am

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We visited Antelope Canyon (it's a heavily-photographed slot canyon in northern Arizona) yesterday. It was thirty-five dollars a person for adults and worth it at probably twice the price.

We are staying in Williams, which is where the Grand Canyon Railway is. This is because we are riding the train (includes simulated robbery event) to the Grand Canyon today. Antelope Canyon is about three hours distant, or two if you have Lala driving for you. On the way there, you go through a lot of Arizona scenery, which is more interesting to look at than you probably think.

To get to Antelope Canyon, you drive out of Williams to Flagstaff and then head north on 89 for rather a while. There is not a lot going on, but once you cross the line into the Navaho nation, you get to spend a lot of time driving through reservation land. It is eye-opening.

Visible from the road, many of the dwellings are single-wide trailers that have seen better days. The vehicle of choice is a pickup truck, domestic and older. There are a lot of dirt roads. There are not a lot of places to buy groceries or gasoline. (Cell service is not terrible given the relative density of humans.) Much of the economy appears to be roadside stands that exist to sell genuine indian artifacts to the people driving by... but those booths were empty because we were visiting in the dead of winter. Probably in the summer, more is going on with that.

I did not see any reservation land that was not visible from 89, 89T, or 98. Perhaps the land by the road is less desired and all the really nice houses and thriving business districts are located back rutted dirt roads, out of sight of us. But that's not the vibe that I got, honestly.

The land itself is not at all like home. It's not got very many trees and the trees that exist are twisty little junipers (we asked a park ranger). You can use 'em for firewood, but they definitely aren't timber. There's a lot of shrubbery, things like mormon tea and rabbitbrush and sage of various kinds. None of it really screams "edible". Hay, which we have an interest in, goes for twenty dollars a bale. (It's four or five bucks per where we live.) To be fair, it was absolutely lovely hay... but not cheap hay. We saw some pretty skinny horses, as well.

There are elk and coyote, both of which we saw. There are also rather a lot of crows or ravens, which we don't really know how to tell apart. If they're crows, they're damn big ones. Our crows do not get that big.

Antelope Canyon is in Page, more or less. Because it is on Navajo land, you need to pay for permits and a tour guide to go there. This is not a racket. First off, it's not got a paved road to it -- it's a rutted dirt road that gets crappy when it rains. You really don't want to try driving your rental car there. Second, it's well worth it to see the damn thing. Third, they keep you from dying when it rains upstream and water pours through the canyon at forty miles an hour. They live there and pay attention to the weather locally. You do not live there and need someone to keep your damn fool self from getting killed by a rainstorm you neither heard nor saw because it was seven miles away. (Actual event in 1997.) Pay the tour guide and be glad to do so.

I suspect that it is somewhat busier in the peak season, when the sun is high enough to shine down into the canyon. (Tour guide said peak season was March - November.) The sun just does not get that high in December, but the canyon is still beautiful and your experience will be uncrowded and relatively unhurried in the off season. We looked at the Upper Canyon (there are two sections) because it is a lot more walkable and we had an 8 month old baby in hand.

Tour group was 11 people plus guide, and we did not feel hurried, crowded, or shuffled through. This is an important consideration because the canyon walls are close enough that you can touch both of them at the same time pretty regularly. Even if they wanted to, they couldn't get a million people in there. The canyon has some larger rooms, but mostly it's kind of narrow. The canyon floor is sand (like a creek bed) and mostly level. We did run into one other group of people (with tripods) but they were almost done and we just went around them.

If you are in the area, go see the Antelope Canyon. It's really, really pretty and not like anything you've likely ever seen before. And it is way better in person, even if you've seen awesome pictures and not just crappy off-season point-n-shoots like this one:



Unbeknownst to us, Lake Powell is fairly close by. So we're driving up into Page and there are all these boats. And we're "WTF BOATS?!" because this is, if not a desert, definitely not a place you'd expect to have a lot of boats. It doesn't look water-enabled, if you know what I mean. Dusty, dry, orange-red dirt, no trees, lots of rocks. It looks, quite honestly, kind of like a Roadrunner cartoon if you mentally erase the sage and other shrubberies. But boats. Lots and lots of boats. Boat storage (like at Raystown), boat sales, boat repair. They are not small boats, either. These are large boats that need a large body of water, so we were confused until Lake Powell was made clear to us.

Also there is a huge, like ginormous power plant kind of near the slot canyon but it is not going to mess anything up because you can't see it when you're doing the canyon thing.

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