Utah 2023 – Upper Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

Well, actually not Utah, but just over the river-border into Arizona for a day to visit the iconic Upper Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona. For many years I have loved the imagery that photographers like John Gavrilis have captured of this magical place so it was a special treat to join a guided tour (the only way we’re allowed to visit this Navajo tribal land) and try my own hand at such artistry. The conditions outside were rough, with high winds sandblasting our faces as we entered and exited the famous slot canyon, but when we saw how those conditions delivered unique drifting “sandfalls” in the beams of sunlight, it was easy to ignore the discomfort. We could easily blame the swirling dust for the tears in our eyes, but the emotions that the beautiful formations evoked also played their part!

Warning: there are a LOT of photos here from Antelope Canyon (yet only a fraction of the number I shot), plus a couple more from nearby Glen Canyon Dam and Horseshoe Bend. You will be forgiven for scrolling quickly to the end, and I hope you don’t miss the dramatic story of the last night in our “glamping” tent!

Entering the canyon…

A fun “vertical pano shot!”

Sand vapors swirling around pulled taffy…

Exiting the canyon…

What a slot canyon looks like from outside…

Compulsory shots of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell at record low levels. (Note: I’m not a damn dam fan.)

Here’s my version of the classic view of Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River, identical to that taken by millions of visitors every year. Fortunately, the huge crowds don’t take away from the beautiful scene.

Sadly, we were unsuccessful in securing a permit to hike the famous (and ridiculously popular) trail at “The Wave” in the Coyote Buttes North part of the Paria Canyon. However, we were able to get a permit to hike the more remote (and some say more impressive) Coyote Buttes South. Not wanting to tempt fate, we made a special trip to the Paria Canyon Station to check on the latest conditions. The local rangers didn’t pull our permit but, because of the strong winds and a new cold front forecasted for that night, they were actively discouraging visitors to the area. We left uncertain of what we would decide to do the next morning, and made our way back to our Upper Canvas tent, looking forward to a good night’s sleep. But then…

The fantastic staff at Under Canvas met us upon arrival to advise that their “residential tents” were rated for winds no greater than 55mph, and they had been clocking 65+mph for the past couple of hours with no abatement expected until later that night. They had been busy helping other guests find alternative accommodation that night, some as far as 100 miles away. We were offered the choice of packing up and driving through the storm elsewhere (“Ummm, no thank you!”), or hunkering down out in the “lobby tent” with a few other brave souls to enjoy wine, simple bar food, and live music while waiting out the storm (“Sure, that sounds fun!”).

Close to midnight, the “all clear” was sounded to return to our own tents where I quickly lit our stove to fight off the sub-freezing temps.

We managed a couple of hours of fitful sleep as the winds continued to roar, flapping and snapping the tent sides like a luffing sail. They subsided in the early morning hours, only to be replaced by another sound in this nautical metaphor: “What’s that noise? Are we taking on water?!?” I quickly bundled up to make an inspection outside and found that our tent’s water main had burst. The trickle of water that is necessarily released to prevent the pipes from freezing was now gushing enough water to carve another canyon. The over-worked maintenance tech on-call that night, at a resort now eerily empty of most guests, now had yet another challenge to manage. While we, fortunately, continued on our journey the next day, still dusty but none the worst for wear.

I hope you don’t read this narrative as a critique of Under Canvas or the whole concept of “glamping,” particularly for those of you more interested in the “glamor” than the “camping…” My intention is actually the opposite. The facilities and the staff at Under Canvas were top-notch and went above and beyond to help their guests through a challenging situation. I believe that the beauty, grandeur and mystique of the American Southwest can be fully appreciated only when you’re outside – feeling the elements. It truly is nature at its most glorious and most mercurial. If these posts and photographs do anything to inspire you to visit, I hope you’ll shed the armor in which you’re covered. Trust me, it may feel a bit uncomfortable for awhile but you’ll feel more alive when you do!

Author: Chris

Until 2019, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia focused on Community Economic Development. Before that, I was a high-tech executive, small business owner, consultant and business broker.

6 thoughts on “Utah 2023 – Upper Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend”

  1. I’m so glad that Joanie has you in her life and that you have the ability to perfectly communicate your amazing adventures.

  2. Thanks Chris
    Again most beautiful pictures, emotional comments and encouraging messages!

    See you on Wednesday

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