Adventures in the American West: The Secret Canyon

‘Be still and the earth will speak to you’-Navajo Proverb

When scoping out things to do in Page, I knew I wanted to check out Horseshoe Bend and came across a tour to the Secret Canyon. Horseshoe Bend Tours combined both locations and I truly had no idea what to expect as Horseshoe Bend is run by the National Park Service and open to the public. While I’ll share next week about all of that, the Secret Canyon intrigued me. It was the most expensive tour, at $135, but worth every penny. While Antelope and Cathedral Canyons are on Navajo Land, Secret Canyon is on private property within Navajo Nation and the tour company is the family that owns said land. It is one of the nearly 1000 slot canyons in the region that you need permission to visit. And I really loved that my money was going directly to a local family business.

Horseshoe Bend Tours is a family business, the grandparents own it, the kids run it, and the grandkids give the tours. They are all lovely and my guide was Bree, who was in the middle of the grandkids. His older brother took out the tour previously. It was Christmas Eve, so they were all chatting about who was bringing what for Christmas dinner. What also made this even more meaningful was with the deep ties the family had with the land. They had been there for more than 150 years and were survivors of ‘The Long Walk,’ the forced march of Navajo and Apache during the American Civil War. They were held at Bosque Redondo, Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The ‘reservation’ (internment camp) would eventually house nearly 9,000 Native Americans but was only designed for half that. Conditions were horrific and, after a five years, they were released. Upon their release, it became one of the few times in American history the federal government acknowledged wrongdoing in their treatment of indigenous people. I have taught about this event in my classes but it really hit home listening to Bree share his family story with me. It will stay with me, always.

On a lighter note, the Secret Canyon is really cool! It is about a 15 minute drive from the meeting spot at their office and you enter at the family homestead and then a bit of off-roading. Due to being freezing and raining, we were in a van, normally it is an open air trucks to be prepared for that. The canyon is really peaceful. Also, because it is private land, you can bring your pack with you. This came in very handy because it was raining and my camera, LUMIX G7, is not great in the rain. I was able to stick it into my Patagonia day pack (knowing from past experience how well it does in the rain) until I was deeper into the canyon. It did crystalize that I really do need to upgrade my camera to an all weather. I have been talking about it for a long time but I’m going to have to bite the bullet sooner rather than later.

The perk of this tour is that it is never crowded. It also feels very special, much like the name, because it is not as well known as Antelope Canyon. It also crystallized that while all these canyons were created the same way, flood water, they are all unique. Secret Canyon has spots where the Navajo sandstone is so smooth, you can see the wave pattern from the rushing water that created it.

The scope, size, the uniqueness of designs…it is a spiritual experience. One that I highly recommend, especially after my Horseshoe Bend experience.

2 thoughts on “Adventures in the American West: The Secret Canyon

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