Southwest Road Trip: Curving Toward the Light

I arrived in Page, Arizona in a late January evening just as the clouds were beginning to roll in. I had little idea of what to do in town so I just found a cheap motel in which to spend the night. While checking in I perused the ubiquitous motel-bookstand-full-of-fliers-of-what-to-do-around-here and discovered to my delight that Antelope Canyon was right in town on the Navajo Reservation. “Well holy jeez,” I thought to myself, “I shall have to pay a visit.”
Next morning I roll out of bed at 9:25 and poke my head outside. It’s completely overcast, with little snow flurries here and there. Shoot. I guess my “grand vista” type photography is kaput for the day. But I figure the clouds will give some nice even lighting to Antelope Canyon so I grab the flier for one of the tour companies taking people out to the canyon. I give them a ring and ask if they have any extended tours going out today. “We sure do,” says the guy. “We have one going out at 9:30.” I look at my watch: it’s 9:29. Crap.

Then the guy says, “but our driver isn’t here yet so you still have a little time to get here.”

“Ok, gimme 10 minutes,” I say, then hang up, throw on some warm clothes, pile all my camera gear into my bag, grab a granola bar from my cache, put the do not disturb sign on the door, run outside and down the steps and into the motel lobby, tell them I want to stay another night, run back outside, jump into my car, peel out of the parking to go searching for the tour company, and find it literally across the street from my motel. Excellent.

I climb out of my car, my hastily-grabbed possessions falling out onto the sidewalk in complete disarray. I quickly sort things out and walk into the office, where there is only one other tourist waiting. Luckily for me, this guy wanted to go to Antelope Canyon so badly that he booked two spots (the tour minimum) just to make sure it went out. Even so, it was a last-minute type deal, which is why the driver was late.

Anyway, a few minutes later the driver shows up, obviously having just been called in (she told us this was normally her day off and was home with her kids) and takes us out to the canyon. But since the tour was last minute and she had rushed to get out of the house, our guide was only wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, despite the fact that it was around 35 degrees out. So after about 10 minutes in the canyon she headed back to the truck to get warm and just let me and the other guy wander around the canyon for the next two hours by ourselves.

And since it was wintertime, we literally had the place entirely to ourselves for those two magical hours. Because of the time of year as well as the clouds, we didn’t see any of those iconic lightbeams, but we did have something much more special: a chance to appreciate this amazing place without anyone else around to spoil the quiet magic of it.


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