As far as towns go, there isn’t much to see: gas stations, diners, tour outfits, a smattering of two star motels. But what Page lacks in a lively downtown scene, it more than makes up for in its proximity to sandstone.
There’s a lot I could say about the influx of tourism or departure of industry in Page (or about Indigenous land). A lot has been said about hoards of people and permanent damage. My observations were fleeting, barely two days’ worth. Instead, I’m going to talk about what it’s like to see the sun touch the curvature of Horseshoe Bend at first light, and about the way the walls of a slot canyon breathe around you, swallowing you whole.
First, the Bend.
You wake in the bone-cold predawn hours and pick your way along a wide, sandy path. In the distance, you’ll see several dozen silhouetted figures perpendicular to the horizontal planes of the tableland. With toes at the very edge of the sandstone ledge and 800 feet beneath, you wait for the sun to warm your shoulders as its glow gradually melts over the mesa ahead. Below, the Colorado River meanders around Horseshoe Bend while those several dozen visitors angle their devices at unnatural degrees. All the photos will be similar, but here she is, nevertheless: Horseshoe Bend, March 24, 2018, 6:45AM.
Second, the Canyon.
Here’s another example of how research pays off. Antelope Canyon is a wonder to behold: a sinuous slot canyon cut deep into the earth. The light folds along its sandstone walls and slips gently to the canyon floor. To fit yourself into its grooves and walk its line is a breathtaking experience. Also, because I’m no more original than most of you, a number of folks also feel that way. Quite a lot of them. So the canyon is also notoriously crowded. Silence is replaced with selfies and the journey through the sandstone cathedral is more of a crawl.
For the trip, I decided to eschew the iconic stone ribbons of Upper or Lower Antelope, and instead chose a smaller tour outfit who guided us into a secret slot only called X. For hours, we threaded noiselessly through the canyon, marveling at its undulating curves and filtered light. The real crux of it, though, is that we were also in relative solitude. That aloneness was a gift I gratefully received.