Antelope Canyon Arizona is No Longer Hidden, but It’s Still a Gem

Antelope Canyon 1

By Mary Lyons

In the 1970s, the slot canyons on the Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona were still relatively unknown to everyone except the Navajo. While visiting Antelope Canyon recently, I met a man from Tucson who said he visited Antelope Canyon in the 1970s. Twice. Fresh out of college, he went on a road trip by himself in his Volkswagen beetle. He stopped for gas and asked what there was to see in the area. He was told to go see “the skinny caves” by a Navajo man who worked in the gas station.

 

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So off he went, almost getting stuck in the sand before reaching what is now known as Upper Antelope Canyon. He walked through the slot canyon, mystified by what he saw and wanting to know more about how it was formed. But there was no one to ask. He didn’t see a single person in Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon on that day.

 

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Fast forward eight years. This same man takes his new bride to see “the skinny caves” on the Navajo Reservation. He assured her the “Indians” would not hurt them. This time, they saw one other person during their visit. They saw each other. Now there were two people wandering through the canyons, taking pictures, and wondering how this miracle of nature occurred. He said they knew it was erosion, but how? There was no water here.

 

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Or was there? These two canyons, now known as Antelope Canyon, aren’t the only two slot canyons in northern Arizona and southern Utah. The soft sandstone here is easily eroded during flash floods that occur a few times a year. These slot canyons change every time it rains. Even a little bit of rain can cause a flash flood through the slots as the water bottlenecks and rushes through the narrow opening, washing away several feet of sand in the bottom of the cave.

 

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After each flood, the Navajo shovel three feet of sand back into the narrow slot canyon. Without it, no one would be able to walk through it because the opening at the bottom is far too narrow. When my guide, Dezzi, told me this, I couldn’t believe it.

Fast forward to 2017. I arrive for my guided photography tour through Upper Antelope Canyon. There were seven people in my group, but at least 100 people gathered outside the office of Antelope Canyon Tours, in Page, Arizona, waiting for their tour to depart from the office parking lot. My tour lasted two hours because I paid more to be on a photography tour. Regular tours last only 60 minutes.

 

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I have no idea how many people I saw in Upper Antelope Canyon. Probably hundreds, but because I was on a two-hour photography tour, the Navajo guide would hold people back or make groups wait so that there would be no people in our photos. Photography tours are limited to a certain number of people, and each person must have a DSLR camera and tripod. I booked through Antelope Canyon Tours at www.antelopecanyon.com. For a two-hour photography tour (all 120 minutes spent in the canyon!), the cost is 100 USD plus a fee of 8 USD to the Navajo Reservation.

The next day, I had a two-hour tour of Lower Antelope Canyon, which is probably the more famous of the two. I know there were hundreds of people there, but once again, because I was on a photography tour, there are no people in my photos. For this tour, I booked through Ken’s Tours at www.lowerantelope.com for 47 USD plus the 8 USD fee to the Navajo Reservation. My guide was a young Navajo man named Dezzi, and just like the day before, he kept the masses at bay while we took pictures. There were only two people in my group on this day.

 

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I’d like to say a bit about gratuities for the guides. Like tour guides everywhere, they are not getting rich doing this job, and they work so hard. They work on days when most people don’t have to. They miss holidays with their family because people who don’t have to work on holidays come to visit these canyons. They deserve a generous tip when the tour is complete. In my group of seven at Upper Antelope, I was the only one who tipped the guide. I realize some tourists come from cultures where tipping is not customary, but in the US, it is expected and it is often the major source of income for tour guides, rather than their salaries.

 

WHAT IS A SLOT CANYON?

A slot canyon is formed by water eroding away rock, usually a soft rock like sandstone. During rainstorms, the water collects at the opening of the slot canyon, which looks like a cave, and it rushes through, rising at it goes, creating a narrow opening throughout what would otherwise be a cave. Because the water is restricted by the rock walls, it rises rapidly, maybe up to more than 50 or 60 feet deep, and washes the canyon clean, bringing and removing debris.

 

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The canyon remains narrow, but wide enough to walk through, and the rock formations change each time it floods. This results in awe-inspiring formations which, in the case of Antelope Canyon, have been named by the Navajo. These formations and the light that floods through them are why they are photographed so often and why they have become so popular to visit.

 

WHERE IS ANTELOPE CANYON AND HOW DO I GET THERE?

Antelope Canyon 9Antelope Canyon is located on the Navajo Reservation in the northeastern corner of Arizona. It is close to small town called Page, which is not part of the reservation. This entire area is red multi-colored sandstone and Page sits at the edge of Glen Canyon dam and Lake Powell, only 12 miles from the Utah border.

To get here from southern Arizona, take I-17 north to Flagstaff, and then take Hwy 89 north to Page. If you’re coming from southern Utah or Las Vegas, you can take either Hwy 89 south or 89A east. 89A will take you along the Vermillion Cliffs for some spectacular scenery.

If you’re flying in, the closest major airports are Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Salt Lake City. From any of these, you can rent a car and drive and see some of the most incredible scenery the United States has to offer.

 

WHAT ABOUT ACCOMMODATION DURING MY VISIT?

Antelope Canyon 10Page, Arizona is, in my opinion, your best option for accommodation. There are hotels for all budgets, some with incredible views of Glen Canyon dam and Lake Powell. But I was on a budget, and I wanted to camp. I hadn’t used my backpacking tent in 15 years. After testing it out in my back yard, I researched campgrounds near Antelope Canyon. There are many options.

I booked at a full-service campground in Page called Page Lake Powell Campground for 28 USD a night for a tent site. A little pricey for a tent site, but each site has electric, water, a grill, and a picnic table, and plenty of space for at least two backpacking tents or one large tent. Oh, and each site has a tree. Page gets pretty hot during the summer. There’s also RV camping here, clean restrooms and hot showers, a camp store, cabins, and friendly staff.

There are many other camping options available in the area. There is camping even closer to Lake Powell near Waheap, which is actually in Utah, or a little further away you can camp at Lees Ferry Campground for 20 USD a night, but there are limited services here.

 

IS IT REALLY WORTH DRIVING THERE TO SEE TWO SLOT CANYONS?

First, there is so much more landscape to see in this region than just Antelope Canyon. Second, I will let the photos speak for themselves. There’s a reason Antelope Canyon is open year-round and a reason there are hundreds of visitors a day. Believe it or not, the crowds are smaller in winter. November weather is perfect, but December through February are cold and sometimes it snows. There are sure to be smaller crowds when Europe and Asia are in school. The week of Thanksgiving and Christmas are madness. I don’t recommend going during those weeks. I went the week before Thanksgiving when everyone was still at work and in school and it wasn’t really crowded.

 

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Not far from Page and Antelope Canyon is another famous and widely photographed natural wonder called Horseshoe Bend. Many people think it’s in the Grand Canyon, but it is actually on the Navajo Reservation. This incredible natural wonder is best photographed with a wide-angle lens and filter at sunset. I had neither of those things, but I did go at sunset and gave it my best shot.

 

Horseshoe Bend

 

A visit to Antelope Canyon is a must and should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is so worth the extra money for the photography tour, but remember, you must have a DSLR camera and tripod. No matter what tour you take, your photos will be beautiful and you will say, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

 

The Best 5 Apre-Ski Resort Areas in Italy

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By Alessia Morello

 

From late November to early December, all Italian skiing areas begin to count down for the beginning of the ski season. If the snow arrives in advance, like this year, the ski resorts first open to the happiness of snowboarders and skiers who for 7 months are in a trepid wait.

Skiing is a tradition in Italy, if you live in the Alps and the Dolomites when you’re a kid it’s the norm to get up on Sunday at 6:00am, prepare skis and boots and leave for one of the many ski destinations with the family.

When I was just a teenager, snowboarding started in my beloved northeast and me and my father, brave sportsmen, were the first to throw ourselves into this new discipline. I still remember the first falls. Now I am at least 17 years that I snowboard and in addition to go out-track there is one other thing that I love when I go to the mountains. The famous aprè-ski!

After a day of skiing it is usual to go for a drink to warm up and relax in the bars that are at the bottom of the track or in one of the many alpine huts. Over the years these bars have also started making music and creating a broader offering, to make the drink at the aper-ski the coolest event of the day.

 

THE BEST ITALIAN DESTINATIONS – WHERE TO SKI AND HAVE FUN:

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LIVIGNO (Lombardia)

With its 115 kilometres of downhill slopes, 30 km of cross-country skiing trails and many freeride tracks, thanks to a perfect climate and favorable position, Livigno is one of the TOP locations for skiing and snowboarding.

Livigno is also famous for festivals and events throughout the season, but especially for the Snowland music festival, a 6-day long music festival featuring sun, snow and famous DJs.

 

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO (Veneto)

Cortina is one of the most glamorous ski resort areas in Italy since the 1960s. Every respected VIP goes to Cortina at least once a year. But besides the glamor curtain, the “Dolomite pearl” also boasts 86 tracks for 106 km of slopes, as well as one of the best nightlife scenes. If you want to be IN go to the Cortina d’Ampezzo.

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SELVA DI VAL GARDENA (Trentino Alto Adige)

Selva di Val Gardena is one of the largest ski resorts in Italy. Why? Simply because there are 4 connected ski areas that together are known as “Sellaronda” for a length of 1200 miles of ski slopes. Unbelievable. You can do the rounds of the districts in both directions without ever taking off your skis or snowboard. In this myriad of possibilities I do not think it is difficult to find events, music, alpine huts in the middle of nowhere where you can do the best apre-ski of your life. Have not you left yet?

 

PRAMOLLO (FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA)

The Pramollo is a beautiful ski resort located on the Italian-Austrian border and in this mix of cultures you can find snowboard lovers who do the typical Italian aperitif with “Spritz aperol”, eat Italian pizza by drinking an Austrian Villacher beer and closing dinner with a Snapps or Grappa (is the same thing). In addition to sharing recipes and tracks, in Nassfeld there are some of the most fun bars and parties of the season, the metal festival in the snow “Full Metal Mountain”, the carnival event or the most unusual wine festival ever. Unmissable.

 

LA THUILE (VALLE D’AOSTA)

Do you want to ski and party in the presence of the majestic “Monte Bianco”? The most important mountain in Italy? Then you must go to La Thule in the ski area with the French border. La Thuile at 1441 m has trails that start from 2600 meters with bar and rooms with views of the most envied in the world. A lot of world skiing competitions are held on these mountains and events and amusements follow throughout the season.

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Have you ever thought about a winter holiday in the Italian Alps?

So what do you expect?

Buy a ticket!

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Alessia Morello lives in the north-east of Italy. After working for several years around the world she decide to stop and come back in her homeland and do the things she loves like trekking into the Dolomites with her dog Giorgino and creating posts and videos for her blog. She grew up doing outdoor adventures with the family and now the nature is part of her life. Other interests? Rock climbing, mountain bike trails, cooking vegetarian recipes and having fun!

Follow her travels at www.theitaliansmoothie.com and on Instagram and Facebook.

 

 

A sailboat and a new way to see nature

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By Kristin Hanes

We turned the corner of a long, dredged channel in the San Francisco Bay, which is just deep enough to accommodate the six foot keel of our double-masted sailboat. My boyfriend Tom cut the motor, and we hoisted a couple of sails, all ropes and winches, muscle and effort. The 41’ sailboat started to lean, catching the wind, pushing against the lines like a race horse ready for the track. In that moment, with our boat cutting through the water, I felt like I was somewhere far away from the hum of the San Francisco Bay area, the cars, the pollution, the endless torrents of people rushing from here to there. On the bay, our boat whispered through the water, and finally, no one else was around.

 

I had a feeling I’d love sailing from the get-go. I’m a girl who loves nature, who was raised on two acres in Oregon, one a stretch of green lawn fringed with fruit trees, the other dense forest, brush and wetlands to explore. I love backpacking and hiking, being in the quiet solitude of trees or near the roar of waves at the ocean. I thought I’d love sailing, too, and I was right.

 

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When I lost my job as a news reporter in San Francisco in 2016, it just made sense for me to move onboard Tom’s sailboat. I needed to save money on ridiculous rent around here, which averages $3,300 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Slip fees for the boat are just a few hundred dollars per month, utilities are $5. We get all our movies and shows from the library and shower at the gym.

 

Living on the sailboat hasn’t always been amazing. For two years, the boat has been undergoing a massive restoration so we can sail it around the world, and at first, it had nothing. No stove, no toilet, no running water. I cooked our meals by balancing a frying pan on a one-burner camping stove, and went to the marina bathroom. Slowly but surely, Tom fixed the boat up, and now it has almost everything we need. Things I will never take for granted again, like basic appliances and amenities. Living on the boat has taught me to be truly grateful.

 

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What we lacked in amenities though, we gained in adventure. We could take the boat out of the marina whenever we wanted and anchor for the night somewhere beautiful. One hour to the north is a placed called China Camp, a California State Park, where we anchor out in the edge of the vast expanse of the Bay. At sunset, the colors ripple across the water and shade the white masts with orange. The boat rolls gently with the changing tides and the wakes of passing cargo ships, and I think it’s the most relaxing thing in the world. Now that we have a stove, I love cooking enchiladas in the oven, and we enjoy the smell while drinking a glass of wine on the stern.

 

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Our plan is to sail around the world, and my outdoor adventures will morph from backpacking to scuba diving. I love nature in any form, whether I’m hiking the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada or swimming amongst tropical fish in the Sea of Cortez. I like witnessing nature at its rawest. The desert of Baja California is just as alive and gorgeous to me as an alpine lake. And if I’m lucky, Baja is where we’ll be this winter. Then the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver Island next summer. We’ll catch fish and dig for clams and learn to identify seaweed. I am itching for this adventure to begin so I can get out of the crush of people for good. After living on a sailboat for the last year-and-a-half, I’ve learned that city life isn’t for me. I like solitude and sunsets, rolling waves and dolphins cutting the water in front of the sailboat’s bow. I like living in a small space with Tom, where we move around each other like a well-oiled machine.

 

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At this point in my life, I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to live in a house again. Even when I pet sit and stay in beautiful homes, I start to feel trapped, like a caged animal. I can’t imagine the responsibility, the mortgage, the debt, the endless cleaning. Our sailboat tiny home moves wherever we want, plus is small and easy to maintain. When there isn’t room for stuff in life, clutter stays at a minimum.

 

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Sailboat life isn’t for everyone. I would never own one on my own. There’s work and know-how involved, like how to repair diesel engines or fix the rudder. I’m glad Tom is along to be the fix-it guy, and I’m along to keep the crew alive and well through meals and care.

 

Who knows where the sailboat will take us. Adventure and freedom wait. All I know is that wherever I go, I’m home.

 

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About the Author:

Kristin Hanes is a journalist and writer who lives on a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay. Besides sailing, she loves anything adventurous and outdoorsy, including hiking, backpacking and traveling. Besides staying active, Kristin also loves cooking, salsa dancing and drinking a good beer. You can follow her adventures on her blog, www.thewaywardhome.com

 

Dear Natalie, What is this? And why?

Ask Natalie Banner

By Natalie McCarthy

Dear you,

It’s a move to a written format.

This new format is not limited by letters, questions, fears, worries, or problems; rather, it is expanded by them.

Let me explain.

You might remember how, for a while, I had the honor of answering questions through an advice column called “Ask Natalie.” I fielded letters about back-country ethics and front-country relationships, and every so often, I’d be delighted to receive a follow-up comment or two. When Nicole [Camping for Women] asked me if I’d like to make the column into a video series, I was nervous, but delighted, but so totally nervous. I have always been more motivated by fear of regret than plain ol’ fear, so I agreed, and off we went into the jungle of YouTube.

For a few wild and wonderful months, I was filmed answering the letters I received, and I got to read entertaining and kind comments from those who viewed each episode. As an advice columnist, I was having a ball responding to what was being said.

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However, as someone who chose psychotherapy as a profession, I’ve always been keen on listening to what isn’t said. Often, we don’t talk about our most important questions, our strongest fears, or our most fervent dreams. We carry them in us, but for a thousand different reasons, they never make their way into words. I was reminded of this when the inevitable happened: Natalie the advice columnist ceased to receive regular requests for advice. At face value, I thought this was a lovely thing. I figured it meant that readers of the column were calm and content. Upon further thought, though, I wondered: What isn’t getting asked?

And so here we are. Each month, I will ask the questions, and I will answer them. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s exactly what we all do day-in and day-out: We have experiences, and internally, we run a dialog with ourselves. This happens even more often when we are adventuring and having new experiences. “What’s that?” we ask ourselves when we see something we’ve never seen before.  “Wonder what’s going on there,” we’ll internally murmur when we glimpse a tense interaction between strangers speaking a language we do not understand. “Why is this happening?” we’ll silently wail when we face hardship on a hiking trail. We don’t often speak these questions aloud, of course, but we pose them to ourselves.

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In this new version of “Ask Natalie,” I will speak those questions aloud – almost like a journal entry – where you can read them and, I hope, respond to them.

Your participation is what turns a silent musing into a true dialog. My hope is that I will open the door to some of the experiences we have as adventuring women, and you will walk through it with your own perspective and knowledge. I want to feature your written comments, video responses, and audio recorded thoughts. All of these forms of feedback are welcomed in the new “Ask Natalie,” and in that sense, you are as much an author of this new column as I am. (And for what it’s worth, if you ever do have a problem you’d like some advice on – we can still do that here!)

If I can be super candid with you all, I have to say, I’m very excited about this new direction. I’m excited for you to be even more involved with “Ask Natalie,” and I’m excited that as a journal of sorts, we can feature all sorts of media. I’m excited that I won’t feel as compelled to have makeup on when I send Nicole my contribution to the column! Mostly, I’m excited that we can create a little place where we shine light on those corners of our experience that aren’t covered in the outdoors and travel magazines.

We can talk about what it is like to be women facing new adventures and growing because of them.

Thank you for coming along with me on this new journey!

Natalie

 

 

 

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Man, Woman, Mountain.

Man Woman Mountain 1

By Emily Pennington

“The surest way to mend a broken heart is through a forest wilderness.”
-John Muir

 

On really confusing evenings of self, I like to drink beer and make up quotations that John Muir definitely did not write. I summon him like my own, personal break-up Yoda the moment a man threatens to rip the sticky, sensitive tissue of my heart to shreds. I need this. A stubborn, fantasy-ridden reminder that things can still be beautiful, even when they do not turn out as I’d hoped. Though very much dead, Muir offers surprisingly warm company, a wild-eyed mountain guru who will hold my hand through the thick fog of being a suddenly single outdoorswoman.

 

On a chilly Friday in November, following a particularly gut-shattering break-up, I got my dates screwed up and realized that my friends were climbing Mount Baldy the following week. I thought it was tomorrow. I stared at the vacuous, blue light emanating from my iPhone as I wondered whether or not I should still set my alarm and attempt the 11-mile summit. On one hand, I had nothing else to do with my Saturday now that my partner was gone. On the other, my heavy heart had plummeted into the very pit of my stomach where anxiety gestates, and the thought of hiking to 10,000 feet alone and in high winds made me shiver. “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings,” whispered my ghostly sidekick. I fist-bumped the air above my bed, set my alarm, and rolled over to get some rest.

 

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The following morning on the trail, I found my mind sluggish and distracted, wind kissing my cheeks with sharp sprays of cold air that turned my face a bright pink. My thoughts wandered. I didn’t often hike at high altitude alone. I set one foot in front of the other, just like I had done a thousand times before, and put my head down. It became a moving meditation as my brain began to massage the precise details of the breakup into something resembling a lesson.

 

“Had I asked for too much?” “Was my sensitivity too erratic?” “Could I have better shape-shifted into a form that fit the relationship?” I traversed the alpine landscape as my mind roamed through the rocky debris of my heartache. The sound of gravel beneath my rubber soles bit into the air with a familiar crunch. My lungs burned, and the tips of my fingers went numb from the cold. As the massive hump of Mt. Baldy’s east face came into view, I began to feel solid. Alone, but strong.

 

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This was the moment my mind snapped fully into philosophical reverie. I wondered why I fancied malleability such a desirable trait in myself. It left me exhausted and resentful when partners could not follow suit. After all, what was there to change into anyways? I was already a dancer, a yogi, a mountain climber, a college graduate, a political activist, and a road trip sing along master. I read the news as well as the entire Game of Thrones series. I was everything I strived to be. Why was I depleting myself in frantic attempts to keep partners who failed to proffer the same effort?

 

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“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” I thought of John Muir’s apparition high fiving me as I rounded the top of the summit mound. It felt blissful to have soloed the massive peak alone and at my own pace. There was no one to impress but myself. I let out a deep sigh as the wind painted my arms with goose bumps. I was tugging at the thread of this break-up and finding it hitched to the universe of how I approached life itself. Perhaps my 20s had all been a vain attempt at searching for the best thing, the biggest job, or the most compatible partner. I began to feel like I had it all wrong.

 

Maybe the real journey is to give up the hope of better things on the horizon so that we can follow our gut and truly embrace all the good and badassery that we have in the present. I felt it on that summit, the need to hold fast to my strength and my self-respect so that I would not allow another love to topple my ego. “I am a goddamn mountaineer,” I thought. “It’s time to start calling my own shots.” And, with that, I took off down the mountain, feeling more free than I had in a long while, the halo of Johnny Muir’s phantom trailing behind me like a superhero’s cape.

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