Spring Breaking and Making Memories in Antelope Canyon
Sandy beaches. Tan skin. Warm water. Salty air. These are the images that flood a college student’s mind when spring break rolls around. I had a different vision for my spring break: my family and I decided to go to Page, Arizona to explore Antelope Canyon. While going to the beach with friends was tempting, I thought it would be nice to spend some time with my parents whom I hadn’t seen in months.
But arriving in Page, I wondered if I made the right choice.
The last time I was in Page was ten years ago when I was thrilled to travel anywhere. We camped at Lake Powell, so we didn’t spend much time in town, but my memories of Page were from the eyes of an excited 10 year-old. I remembered cruising over the water in our boat, listening to Rod Stewart, and laughing with my family. In contrast, visiting the area again left me less than impressed. I scanned the area and noticed the movie theater had a selection of only two movies. I searched for restaurants besides McDonald’s and Burger Kind, but had little luck finding more variety. I saw multiple motels and hostels with flaking paint jobs from baking in the hot desert sun.
“I‘d never want to live here,” I said to my parents as we were driving through this nondescript town.
We gathered at the tour headquarters 30 minutes before our tour and although going mid-afternoon isn’t the most popular time, our tour group was still full. People were waiting anxiously like 5 year-olds going to Disneyland for the first time. I filed into the back of a truck that had a plastic top and walls to protect tourists from wind and sand. After the tour group of 16 people was settled, the 20-minute journey to the canyon began. The first 10 minutes were spent traveling out of Page, where I still found myself questioning people’s motives for coming here. Although the red Navajo Sandstone was beautiful, it wasn’t enough to win me over. The last leg of the journey was spent driving down a sandy wash where the truck needed 4-wheel drive. All the bumps made me feel like I was on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. After the bouncy journey ended, we saw an opening in the sandstone, signaling we had reached our destination.
I hopped out of the truck and felt the fine sand splash up around my ankles as though I jumped into a puddle after a rainy day. I looked around and thought it was fascinating to see that in the middle of so much sand laid a radiant, a weather-carved world we would soon explore. I felt like a Indiana Jones finally stumbling upon hidden gems he’d been in pursuit of for years. Entering the canyon and seeing the first ginger-orange colored wall was just a tease to what really lied inside.
The renowned beauty soon revealed itself as we walked deeper into the canyon. The sandpaper walls had striations and a rough texture that complimented the velvety sand on the ground. Blues and purples from the shadows of the high walls accompanied the famous oranges and yellows swirls. The walls were Neapolitan ice cream where the various colors swirl together to make a new flavor. The refreshing smell of rain from past floods lingered in the canyon, mixing pleasantly with the natural aroma of sand creating a magical atmosphere. The smells reminded me of summers at my grandma’s house where we would be traipsing in from the pool, getting the concrete wet, and revelling in the pleasant aroma of a day well spent outside.
As I was walked through the winding cavern, the tour guide told us different facts about this mystical place. She said the floor changes level depending on the strength of flash floods. About three years ago the floor was 10 feet lower, showing the prominent role nature plays in this canyon. Although I knew it wouldn’t, I pictured the floor falling out from underneath my feet. I checked the clear blue sky to insure there weren’t any dark, rumbling rain clouds approaching.
The south side opening had marks across various walls from people practicing shooting. She said one of the reasons the Native Americans made Antelope Canyon a Navajo Tribal Park was because people were mistreating it, including engravings in the sandstone along with the shooting.
The tour guide also stopped us at multiple locations throughout the canyon to highlight some of its most interesting sites. Overhangs from the wall created a silhouette of Abraham Lincoln. Another one resembled George Washington.
“We have our own version of Mount Rushmore,” she joked.
There were also places where the rocks curved together to make an illusion of a heart and different one of a bear. She pointed out three holes in the wall and she explained were caused by National Geographic. When they visited for a feature on the canyon, they drilled holes into the wall to mount their equipment. Before they were able to come back to gather their cameras, a flash flood washed their equipment away, rendering them without any material to be published.
“I think it’s kind of ironic that people who want to preserve and document nature would leave such a mark like that here,” our tour guide stated.
The canyon eventually opened up approximately a quarter mile from where we started, like a tidal wave opening up to the sea. Leaving the weather-carved world made me realize that exploring it started to change my negative perception about this place; although Page wasn’t the most glamorous or active town, it did have its hidden gems like Antelope Canyon. Not many places can boast about something as remarkable like it, but this town in Northern Arizona has all the bragging rights.
The tour guide told us we had to make our way back through the canyon, signaling this final pass through was my last chance to take in this beautiful place. I took a deep breath, facing the realization that my time was coming to an end. I let the rest of the tour go ahead of me so I could have a moment alone. A breeze drifted through the corkscrew canyon, tussling my ponytail and making the hairs on my arm stand up. I looked above me and couldn’t see the sun, feeling completely cut off from the outside world. I reached down below me and grasped some of the smooth, silky sand and let the fine grains run through my fingers as though it was water.
Maybe this place truly wasn’t so bad after all.
“Shannon, come on!” my dad said, snapping me out of my daydream. I had to confront the impending end and joined him as the tour began its trek toward the exit.
I captured my last photos and filed into the back of the truck where I was granted one last final look at the sun shining down on this astonishing world created by nature. Returning to Page for the night didn’t seem as tedious or monotonous as it had before, even without great movie theaters or restaurants. Not only did I have a chance to spend time with my family, but I also was able to see a new side to a town I didn’t appreciate before. During the drive back into town, I decided coming to Page with family was an infinitely better way to spend my spring break than the typical college beach party.
Antelope Canyon is located east of Page, Arizona on Navajo land, approximately two hours north of Flagstaff. There are two different types of tours available, the Sightseer’s Tour or the Photographer’s tour, that range from $40-$85. To make a tour reservation, either call 866-645-9102 or click here.
Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here.
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