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Chief Tsosie, owner of Antelope Slot Canyon Tours for the past three years, says his seven tour guides lead five tours into Antelope six days a week and all either play the flute or tell Navajo stories in the canyon. The company also offers cultural experiences – for example, groups of ten or more can arrange for a traditional Navajo dinner at Chief Tsosie’s home near Page. We tried a Sand Healing Experience. Vere took us to a small modular home on the 27,000-sq.-mile Navajo reservation for massages using warm red virgin sand, which she says exfoliates and detoxifies the skin. It felt great. After the massage, Vere washed our hair with yucca root – the saponin in the plant naturally produces soap suds and gently cleanses.
An invitation into a Navajo home is a rare treat. For anyone interested in Native American culture, it’s a great opportunity to see how modern Navajo work and live, and to ask about their history and traditions. Neither the dinners nor Sand Healing is mentioned on the tour company website; ask in person to learn more.
Antelope Slot Canyon Tours
Hiking and photo tours of Upper Antelope Canyon and Cathedral Canyon;
Native American cultural experiences
55 S. Lake Powell Blvd.; 928-645-5594; www.antelopeslotcanyon.com
Canyon X/Overland Canyon Tours
Thirty-five minutes from Page – and five miles from paved road – on the Navajo Reservation, the trail into Canyon X begins with an abrupt and sandy descent. Charly Moore, owner of Overland Canyon Tours – the only outfitter with a permit for Canyon X – pauses at the top of a sand dune and gestures toward the opening of the upper slot canyon. “Welcome to my other office,” he says, his German accent still audible after 20 years in the United States. He likes to joke that he’s from the Berlin Chapter of the Navajo Nation. Charly is tall and thin, with graying hair pulled back in a ponytail, and a blue bandana around his head; the ink that covers his arms and the single star under his left eye hint at his previous life as a tattoo artist in Southern California. He carries a hiking pole adorned with feathers (more for moving snakes off the trail than for balance, he says; he hikes this trail several times a week) and a Native American dream catcher. Charly used to vacation at Lake Powell and Page before moving to the area five years ago. He joined Overland Canyon Tours as a part-time guide, then bought the company in 2006. He also owns Thunderbird Art Gallery in Page.
Charly leads us past the upper slot canyon to the entrance of the lower slot, pointing out sagebrush, wild rhubarb, Mormon tea, and yucca plants along the way. The walls of Canyon X begin to close in and suddenly we turn right, facing a narrow crack in a sandstone wall. This is the entrance to the lower slot in Canyon X – the red walls rise up to 150 feet above us. At its narrowest point, the canyon is a mere three feet across. The sky becomes a thin ribbon of blue high above and the sandstone walls take on the fluidity of blown glass. Thousands of years of erosion have left one wall smooth while the other has grooves and ridges like a vinyl record.
Overland’s four guides lead photo tours (five to six hours, $150 per person) and hiking tours (four hours, $100 per person) into Canyon X 365 days of the year. Up to six people are allowed per tour. “I want people to experience the solitude,” Charly says. “I let them sit – the silence makes some people nuts. I come here on a day off to just be by myself.”