Desert Messenger

March 01, 2017

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12 March 1, 2017 Beams of light, Indians, & race car drivers ADVENTURES WITH ROCKS ™ By Jenn Jedidiah Free • We were crammed like sardines onto a bench in the back of the big blue pickup truck, racing down the sandy wash at about 60 miles an hour. Our guide was talking in a heavy Native accent, point- ing out rock formations as we sped by them, but I couldn't pay attention be- cause I was too busy digging my legs in under the seat and hanging on to the edge of the truck for dear life. There were about twenty of us squished into a space big enough for fourteen. There was no need for seat belts because there was no room to move. As we lurched around a curve, the driver yelled "Hang on!" and in an instant we hit a bump and the truck was airborne. As a single unit, all of us lifted up into the air, slid forward, and then landed back on the benches with a thud. The truck touched down and kept going through the cloud of dust like nothing happened. Fifteen minutes earlier we had left the parking lot. There were about six countries and fi ve different languages represented in the group of us, but when the driver fl oored it and took off, the laughter and squeals were a univer- sal sound we all understood. We were tearing down the wash in a cloud of dust like a car on an Indy Track. A red truck with a bed full of passengers like us was rapidly coming toward us in another cloud of dust and our driver edged close to the canyon wall to give it room. We honked at each other as we passed and one brave soul from our group let go for a minute to wave. Another blue truck came up from behind and pulled around alongside us. The drivers smiled at each other, nodded, and then took off neck and neck, racing each other for about 200 yards until our truck slowed down a little to let the other one go ahead. I was alternating between exhilaration and sheer terror. I gritted my teeth and fl ashed a grin at the lady squashed up next to me. She was not amused. Up ahead, through all the dust, I could make out a formation rising up out of the wash. We were here. A natural wonder the Navajo call Tsé bighánílíní, or "the place where water runs through rocks". Deep in the heart of the Navajo Nation, the wide canyon lined with towering red sandstone cliffs we had been driving down suddenly closed in around us and a narrow slit in the rock was visible off to the side. There were other trucks parked here, and our guide, a young Navajo man, helped us peel ourselves out of the truck and join the other group that had raced us a while back. Our driver, an older Navajo man in a cowboy hat and boots, tipped his brim at us and leaned back in the seat to take a nap. In front of us was Antelope Canyon, quite possibly the most beautiful slot canyon on earth. In this place, a sacred one to the Navajo, sunlight coming in from above makes the canyon come to life. Light and shadow move across the contours of the undulating sandstone causing the colors to morph from reds to oranges to purples. Beams of sunshine like spotlights penetrate the darkness and move through the canyon, illumi- nating the walls and creating a surreal and constantly changing radiance like nothing else in the world. Antelope Canyon was formed in the red Navajo sandstone by erosion due to in- tense fl ash fl ooding. During the monsoon season, large amounts of rainwater fi ll the basin eleven miles upstream and drain into the canyon below. As the water rush- es and swirls into the narrow passageway it picks up sand and pebbles, carving deep winding corridors through the soft rock. The most recent fl ood of this magnitude occurred in 2006 and lasted more than 36 hours. The canyon and the wash leading up to it were closed for fi ve months. The canyon was originally discovered by a young Navajo girl who came upon it as she was herding sheep. Later, it was named Antelope Canyon because the Navajo people used the canyon to hunt antelope by herding them into the entrance and trapping them there. The canyon also provided a place of refuge. In 1860, when Kit Carson and his Calva- ry attempted to round up the Navajo and march them to Fort Sumner, many of the natives hid in the nooks and crannies of Antelope Canyon. Early native legends also portray the fertility deity Kokopelli playing his fl ute in the canyon. It is said that the acoustics in the canyon made the music from his fl ute so beautiful and irresistible that women were lured deep into the canyon and brought under Ko- kopelli's spell. The two parts of Antelope Canyon, Up- per and Lower, are separated by a few miles. Lower Antelope Canyon is referred to by the Navajo as Hazdistazi or "spiral rock arches," but is commonly known as "The Corkscrew." Lower Antelope Can- yon is located mostly below ground, and is accessible from the Lake Powell Nava- jo Tribal Park. Ladders screwed into the canyon walls provide entry to the canyon fl oor 120 feet below. Lower Antelope Canyon is 1335 feet long. The canyon can also be accessed from the other end by boat from Lake Powell. The mouth of the canyon is wide, but becomes increasingly more narrow and wind- ing until it is shallow and barely wide enough for a small boat. At this point the fl oor of the canyon rises up out of the water and the twists and turns of the Corkscrew become accessible on foot. Upper Antelope Canyon is best known through photographs found in galleries all over the world. Tourists and pho- tographers fl ock from the ends of the earth to visit Upper Antelope Canyon. Because its entrance and en- tire length are at ground level there is no climbing required and it is easily acces- sible by almost everyone. But it is most famous for the beams of light radiating down into the canyon from openings in the top. These shafts of light interacting with the twists and turns of the canyon walls create an amazing spectacle, and are the subject of thousands of pho- tographs every year. In fact, in 2014, a black and white photo of Upper Ante- lope Canyon called "Phantom" by Aus- tralian Landscape Photographer Peter Lik, commanded a price tag of $6.5 mil- lion, shattering records for the highest priced photograph ever produced. Both Upper and Lower Antelope Can- yon are located on Navajo Nation tribal lands and are accessible only with a guide. For the best opportunities to photograph the canyon with the famous beams of sunlight pouring in, Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours, the one I booked, recommends tours at noon or two. The best time of the year to visit the Canyon is between March and October. Tours can be booked in advance in Page or at the Navajo Tribal Park. The Native guides with Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours are very knowledgeable about the geology of the canyon as well as its his- tory and lore, and they often will help visitors set up their shots to best capture the canyon's magical essence. To view our photojournal of Antelope Canyon, please visit our website wwww. and follow us on Facebook at AdventuresWith- Rocks, The Adventure Continues. We will continue to serve you online with rocks, minerals, gemstones, and other great products through our Ebay, Etsy, and Amazon stores, which can be ac- cessed through the product page at Ad- Also watch for our exciting Kids Kits and other new products coming soon. Read Desert MESSENGER ONLINE @

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