There are few places on Earth so naturally beautiful that you literally fall silent at the sight of it. Lower Antelope Canyon, seven miles east of Page, AZ, is one of those special places. For years, I had seen it in photo books and magazine covers. Images of Antelope Canyon are iconic. But in more than a decade of living within a stone’s throw of the canyon, I had never been there.
The entrance to the slot canyon is innocuous, almost hidden. A narrow crack in the desert floor, less than a foot across, guards a wondrous secret underground. As our group descends into the crevice, the canyon widens to admit us.
The sandstone flows like water. It ebbs and rolls down the walls. The canyon feels like a living entity. Rocks formations like the Chief and the Pirate personify a space that is entirely alien. It doesn’t feel real, no matter how long you walk and climb through it.
Never before have I seen such artistry in geology. I was so glad my camera was slung around my neck, because the gorgeous slot canyon begged to be captured. In some places, the roof is thrown wide open to the sky and sunlight falls in straight lines on the rock. Then, without warning, the top of the canyon closes up and sheathes the sandy floor in shadow.
I snap away. The light is mostly diffuse. The walls play in pools of day and night in a range of colors from white to red to soft oranges and purples to deep, dark violet. The result is beyond breathtaking. It is staggering.
It will never get tired of discovering these jewels in my backyard. The places you pass by and put off. The sights you can’t believe you’ve missed. Where a wisecracking guy in a baseball cap plays the guitar to himself in a stuffy booth between tourists. Where the rock is draped high above your head deep underground.
Where the dull swath of sand and scrub conceals a hidden wonder.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer and consummate wanderer. He lives in Flagstaff, AZ, but you can drop him a line through the comments below on his fancy Twitter feed: @jonnyeberle. What gems have you discovered where you live?