The Inner Light: Inside 3 Slot Canyons

Continued (page 3 of 4)

The silence would be divine if it wasn’t for the wind whooshing above, like waves crashing on the beach. The air is cool and the walls’ changing colors beckon you to linger with your camera. Overland schedules photo tours in the morning for the best light – summer sun yields warm reds, oranges, and golds while winter light means cool purples and grays. The canyon changes depending on weather – winds raise the floor by depositing more of the area’s powder-fine red sand, while summer monsoon season brings wicked flash floods that carry away the sand and drop the canyon floor, sometimes by several feet.

After less than a quarter mile the slot ends and we’re back in the main canyon. Charly points out rock formations and blue berries on juniper trees used to make gin, talks about seeing bobcat and porcupine tracks in the sand, and shows us several birds’ nests right before a great horned owl silently soars above our heads – our only wildlife sighting save for a few ravens and thousands, if not millions, of recently hatched black caterpillars. We backtrack through the lower slot canyon, marveling at how drastically the colors have changed in an area Charly calls “the cathedral,” giving the canyon walls the bright orange glow coveted by photographers. Then it’s on to the upper slot – much shorter and more open than the lower one. Sky is more prevalent above the wider walls; the sound of ravens echo in the back chamber. The wind is more intense here and sand particles catch the sunlight like raindrops. We eat lunch (included with the photo tours) at the mouth of the canyon before making the short but steep climb back to Charly’s truck.

Overland Canyon Tours doesn’t advertise much and their location on North Navajo Drive isn’t easy to see – Charly says most of his clients find him via word of mouth. “I’ve had serious photographers walk out of Antelope Canyon [Overland also leads tours there] because they can’t handle the crowds and the noise,” says Charly. “They come to Canyon X for a more intimate experience.

Overland Canyon Tours
Hiking tours of Antelope Canyon and Canyon X
Photo tours of Canyon X and Cardiac Canyon
Overnight trips (gear included) into Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness
697 N. Navajo Dr. in Page, Ariz.

Secret Canyon Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures

The slot canyons in northern Arizona are off the beaten track, so what better way to get there than in an H2 Hummer? In July 2006, after three years negotiating with Navajo landowners, Vance Swartz opened Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures, taking visitors deep into Waterholes Canyon and its side slot canyons, including Secret Canyon, Staircase Canyon, and Passage Canyon for two or three tours a day with a limit of six people on each tour; half the fun is the rugged 13-mile trip into Waterholes Canyon, with sweeping views of Page, Lake Powell, and the Navajo reservation.

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