Okay, I readily admit that the title of this post is sensationalist. After all, the ‘killer’ in this case is the natural, inanimate object of a slot canyon and not Jack the Ripper or Charles Manson. Nonetheless, in a very short time, in a very short space, 11 people lost their lives. And, I have to admit, I did think about it once or twice as I climbed down the ladders into the narrow cleft of an opening to Lower Antelope Canyon.
Once the canyon walls closed in, all thoughts of what happened 19 years ago dissipated. (This was a dry February and not a monsoon-y August and the controls over access to both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons have been vastly overhauled and improved, in large measure as a response to the earlier tragedy.) Instead the raw beauty of this crazy world unfolded. Every twist and turn revealed wild sculpted forms, glowing here and there with a burnished gold or harvest orange. This quarter-mile long section of the canyon known as Lower Antelope has a very different feel than its further upstream relative, Upper Antelope. The latter canyon one merely walks into; as opposed to clambering down several flights of steel, bolted-into-the-rock stairs that gain one access and egress into and out of Lower. Upper also features a very dark section where your photography can reveal the brooding cool blues and deep purples of the dimly-lit rock. The personality of Upper is quite different than Lower, as my earlier post-with-images shows.
Lower celebrates the triumph of warm light and the visual poetry of sensuously formed rock. Look for glimpses of dark umber overhangs and pumpkin orange walls peeking between narrow and elusive folds of burnt sienna-colored and weirdly-eroded extrusions. (Thank you Crayola for 64 colors of crayons!) Shift an inch or two and new compositions come into focus. Around a bend or down a short set of steps, another world opens up. Waves of sandstone, vortex-carved ceilings, a high window here, a glowing doorway there…Lower is phantasmagorical.
It is also less crowded than Upper as you have to work a bit more for it, what with climbing up and down stairways. This does keep much of the selfie-stick waving masses out. Nonetheless, for a photographer you will still want to take the Photography Tour and unlike our previous tour to Upper, it was just the four of us and our guide (from Ken’s Tours, recommended) in that group and she allowed the maximum time plus for us to get our shots.
Color me cautious and perhaps even a touch paranoid, but when it comes to rain and slot canyons, the power of what one can do to the other is, in a popularly over-used word, awesome. And, scary. This of course won’t stop me from going into them …
… most of the time.
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