Antelope’s Swirls

Antelope's SwirlsAntelope Canyon, or more precisely, Antelope Wash, is a series of slot canyons in the Navajo Nation known for their extraordinary walls of sandstone. Located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, this part of northern Arizona’s landscape is filled with nooks and crannies, each more spectacular than the last. What was once buried under the sea is now exposed to light and air, and especially susceptible to the relentless forces of erosion. What was once a sandy seashore is now layer upon layer of sandstone ready to be sculpted by nature.

Over the eons, water has flowed through the wash, carving and creating the slot canyons from the soft rock. Water, being water, doesn’t move in a straight line, and takes the easiest path; as a result, the canyon’s walls are wider in some places than others, and the floors often far from level. Also, along the way, the walls are made up of fine lines that meander and swirl throughout the canyon. These canyons are deep, too; the bottom is anywhere from twenty to thirty feet below the rest of the desert, although from the top, they are remarkably easy to miss because the top can be just a few inches wide.

Add in an enticing mix of sunlight reflecting down through the canyons, focused by the narrow opening at the top, and you have an exhilarating experience of color and light playing and dancing off the walls. Colors range from browns on a cloudy or overcast day, to yellows and oranges and red, and every shade in between on a bright and sunny day near noon. In the deep recesses of the canyons, you can even find purple tones. In short, the countless colors, combining with the long, sinuous swirls, make an enchanting setting.

This scene intrigues me because of the splash of colors down the canyon’s walls. The yellow at top, replete with some desert varnish, quickly blends into the oranges, then slowly into the reds. The passageway continues around the bend, leading, no doubt, to yet more colors that haven’t been named yet.

Should you explore slot canyons on your own, you need to be exceptionally careful of weather. Despite the beauty and allure of the canyons, they are above all extremely dangerous. Remember, water carved through solid rock. Should it be raining anywhere around the area, even seemingly far away, the water will quickly fill and tear through these canyons, making for one of the most dangerous situations you can find yourself in. Even on a perfectly dry, sunny day, the canyons have perils, namely in the form of rattlesnakes. They might not enjoy the beauty of the canyon in the same way that you or I do, but they sure do like a cool, shady spot, and, unfortunately, are not fond of being disturbed, which is where the real problem lies. Please exercise extreme caution in and around slot canyons.

Swirl your way to Antelope Canyon

$20.00$885.00Select options

Valley Spirit

Valley Spirit

The spring day was still in the valley; the distant storm clouds seemed to be more of a tease than an actual promise, despite their best efforts to appear ominous. Not many creatures were stirring, although few creatures stirred on any given day here. The solitude of the sands remained undisturbed.

Except, that is, for the sound of hoofs, with the accompanying gentle nicker, of the horses. Closer and closer they came; before long the line of galloping horses crossed the valley floor as they quickly made their way to their chosen destination. Leaving a small trail of dust behind them, they were running free, running wild, and running for the sheer joy of it. Manes and tails flowing out behind them, they tore across the valley floor, racing each other. Well before I was ready for them to be gone, the sounds of the hoofs faded into the distance, the sands settled down, and the stillness returned to the day.

Monument Valley is an iconic location, representing the American West in countless movies and photographs. The towering buttes, jutting abruptly from the desert flow, provide a stark contrast of texture and height, and form the valley itself. Yet it is the horses, running wild and free, that represent the spirit and essence of the valley. It is also, without a doubt, one of my favorite places of all time. I am familiar with its nooks and crannies, from the crowded popular spots to the out of the way corners that few know about or visit. I have seen the valley at its best, and I have seen it looking drab and dreary. I know its moods well. Yet, as I watched the horses running against the vastness of the monuments, I immediately knew that the valley was showing its true spirit, and this vignette was mine alone.

As I look back at this photograph, I can feel the spirit and emotion of that moment. I hope that feeling comes to you as well, and you can hear as I did the horses and they made their journey. And I hope that your spirit runs free, through the valley and beyond.

Enjoy the valley

$30.00$555.00Select options

Mystery Saucers

Mystery Saucers

Tucked away in the Navajo Nation lies Mystery Valley, which, like its name suggests, is a place of mystery. It is right next to the far more famous Monument Valley, which receives most of the area’s attention. Still, Mystery Valley has wonders all of its own and rewards those who visit handsomely.

Although it lacks the tall monuments of its neighbor, it does have a rich and deep culture. Throughout in the valley, often where you least expect it, are the remains of ancient dwellings. Some are tucked into alcoves, and all are strategically located. They are no longer occupied, but they are certainly not forgotten, either. They are sacred places, and their very presence can be felt throughout the valley, They are a poignant reminder of those who came before us.

Mystery Valley also sports some impressive rock formations, such as these saucers. Wind and erosional forces have sculpted the sandstone into these swirled discs reminiscent of a flyer saucer, poised for liftoff to places beyond. Combined with moody skies and the far off buttes, it makes for an incredible, surreal landscape, and one that completely lives up to the moniker of Mystery Valley. I really like how the saucers point toward Monument Valley in the distance, and how they provide a contrast between the sands, and sandstone, of the valley and the massive monuments.

There is something deep and powerful about the entire valley. At first glance it appears barren and lifeless, but as you spend time there, you begin to realize just how alive it really is. Small wildlife abounds, as does larger animals such as wild horses. Perhaps they are used to sights, perhaps not, but either way, they live in a land full of wonder.

Purchase your own mystery

$30.00$555.00Select options