I left Flagstaff early the next morning. Though I had originally booked another day at my hostel, I realized that I had already seen all that I needed to of The Grand Canyon. I had breakfast, said goodbye to my new hostel friends, and began my journey out of Flagstaff.
My next journey was to a town called Cedar City in Utah, where I had an AirBnB reserved. It was ideally situated to see both Zion and Bryce National Parks. But I was excited to take a minor detour to a place called Antelope Canyon. I had always wanted to see this place, it looked amazing in the pictures. It was another pretty drive in the desert, and my GPS directed me when some of the streets didn’t have signs. I wondered how people found their wait to Antelope Canyon without GPS, and I started to feel a little bit uncomfortable with my dependence upon electronics. That being said, having a smartphone made travel like this so easy. It was so convenient to be able to read maps, research places, and book lodging with pocket internet.
Antelope Canyon isn’t a normal park. It is actually on a Navajo Reservation. You need to be accompanied by a Navajo guide to enter. That means that it wasn’t some place I could just wander into and explore. I felt they were really making a profit on tourists too. They charged me twice. Once to enter, and then they charged me again for the tour. Something about being charged twice felt worse than paying the full sum at once.
There was an hour wait for the tour, and then our tour guide arrived. He was fun and friendly Navajo Native American, very outgoing and had a good attitude. The tour started with him leading us along the beautiful desert path. Along the way to the canyon, he told us a lot of stories about the land and about Navajo customs. He would point out various plants and describe their medicinal uses.
Eventually we got to the canyon. There were a ton of different tour groups trying to make their way in, it was really crowded. But our guide seemed relieved. He told us that often the line goes way farther back, and this was not a crowded day at all.
We made our way into the canyon one by one, descending down very steep metal stairs into these narrow openings below the ground.In the pictures I had seen, and the ones I’ve taken and posted, the canyons always seemed pretty empty and open. But they weren’t. They were very crowded. There were groups in front of us, and behind us. It was just packed full of people. So I was a little disappointed to realize it wasn’t quite as I imagined it.
But that being said, I was eventually able to look past the crowds. These canyons were amazing. They were carved by water, creating colorful stratifications of lines that turned and warbled along these smooth fluid curves. I had never seen anything like this, and the way the sunlight above broke through the narrow openings in the top of the canyon, illuminating the spiraling rock structures, was just amazing.
The trail was much longer than I expected too. It took almost an hour to move through. Some of that could have been from the crowds.
As we left, our tour guide told us a story. Years ago, a group of people had gone into the canyon when it got flooded and died. Apparently when it rains, the canyon is very dangerous. The water runs downhill from the nearby mountain, floods the canyons, and becomes a swirling whirlpool. What a crazy image!
The tour was fun and I was glad that I went. Despite the crowds and the double paying, it was really an awesome natural structure to see in the middle of the desert. I loved it and got some fun pictures.
I got into my car and continued my journey. Part of me wondered if I was leaving Arizona too soon. There was a part of me that had wanted to go visit Phoenix, a part of me that wanted to stay and see Sedona. Plus I just loved the atmosphere of my hostel, and of Flagstaff in general.
But another part of me wanted to go to Zion, and wanted to be able to visit my friends Simon and Priscilla during the weekend. So I said goodbye to Arizona and journeyed onward to Utah. I have no regrets, I’ll just have to make sure I make it back to Arizona some day to see more.