Thursday, June 6, 2013

What to do? Playing the Slots (Canyons, that is)

One of the most beautiful sights you will ever see is a slot canyon on the Colorado Plateau. Formations like the Navajo Sandstone are good cliff-forming rock layers, and yet they are easily eroded under the right circumstances. Flash floods carry a lot of abrasive sediment, and they work quickly to turn the slightest crevice into an intricately winding maze that can be dozens, even hundreds of feet deep and only a few feet wide.
Add to the maze-like labyrinth the glow of the fierce desert sun, and the rock seems to glow. Exploring a slot canyon can be an exercise in spiritual awareness.

Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona on the lands of the Navajo Nation is regarded by many to be one of the finest slot canyons in existence. The gulch that formed it drains a region of many square miles, and flash floods can deliver tons of sand in a matter of minutes in water/mud twenty feet deep.

 We traveled through it yesterday, and I wanted to share some of the photographic results....
Antelope Canyon embodies a sort of perfection of form and light...the crossbedding structure of the ancient sand dunes adds wonderfully to the texture.
 And the darkness contrasting with the light presents a wonderful challenge to the photographer.
As our visit continued, the sun rose higher, casting more beams of light in the greatest depths of the gorge.

It was just as perfect a moment of spiritual peace and recognition of the paradox of chaos and order in the Universe that one can imagine. Except for one thing. One really important thing...we had to pay a pretty penny for the privilege, and we were conducted through the canyon like cows being herded onto a cattle train...and thus comes the paradoxical question: What to do about it? How to find some way of centering the spirit and finding the peace and solitude so many of us covet?
Well, I suppose you seek out the ragged little sibling canyon that isn't so perfect. Maybe a part of the Navajo Sandstone that has been broken and jointed by the compression of the Earth's crust. Maybe a canyon carved not by mushes of sand and mud, but battered by boulders of solid chunks of rock. A canyon with unstable walls that can collapse and fall without warning.
Maybe you seek out a canyon like Cottonwood Wash in Grand Staircase-Escalante National admission fee, no guides, no people, just quiet.
 And a different kind of beauty: a hard edged beauty. Not as colorful, but full of character.
So, really: how do you choose? Perfection, but with crowds and cattle prods? Or a roughhewn rugged beauty with intense solitude and serenity?
 For me it is no contest...solitude wins out every time. But there is the other solution to the quandary...
 You do both! And that is why yesterday was a great day....
I know of lots of other slot canyons out there. What are your favorites?
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