Joshua Tree National Park and Antelope Canyon

About two hours out of L.A. and heading towards Flagstaff, Arizona I suddenly remembered Joshua Tree National Park. How could I forget? I’d been told that the parks namesake the Joshua Tree looked like something out of Dr Seuss, I’d been told that it’s a deeply spiritual place where many people go and take drugs, that U2 had named one of their albums after it, I’d seen travel reviews of it pop up in my Facebook feed, and I had been shown a pretty cool time lapse video of the park over sunset and sunrise. I had to go and see what all of the fuss was about.

Luckily google maps told us it was a just a short detour on the route we were taking to get to Flagstaff, so we made an impromptu stop.

The park itself was huge. We drove for about 30 minutes through the park and only just crossed a small corner of it.

The Joshua Tree, an oddly shaped spiky tree, dominated the desert landscape, along with very large rock formations that looked like giants had built them out of pieces of Lego.

The park attracts visitors mainly due to it’s interesting ecology formed by two adjoining deserts – the Mohave and the Colorado. These deserts are the home to some interesting wildlife such as foxes, rattle snacks, mountain goats, and a host of birds. Unfortunately we only saw a few geckos. Oh, and a red ant or two which we nimbly avoided.

At the rangers direction we explored the Hidden Valley which was used by cattle thieves to graze and hide their stolen cattle, as the area was once rich with lush vegetation.

We climbed around Hidden Valley for about an hour in 35° heat and needless to say I was quite over it by the time we returned to the car. I certainly wasn’t enchanted by Joshua Tree National Park, but if you are into geology, ecology, biodiversity, or adaptation you would probably quite enjoy it.

I do feel if we had of visited at sunrise or sunset and witnessed that kind of light on the landscape I would have been more thoroughly enraptured.

After spending the night in Flagstaff we decided to bypass the Grand Canyon and set off to visit Antelope Canyon , Arizona, which had been recommended by a friend as a substitute for Grand Canyon.

To start with there were no antelopes so don’t get your hopes up. And secondly, the photo tour that I was keen to do wouldn’t let Oscar do it with me as he didn’t have a DSLR and tripod (lame) which meant we were forced to do the general tour with more people and no tripods.

Despite this, Antelope Canyon was fantastic. We chose to do the Upper Canyon as opposed to the lower, which I think is the more popular/photographed of the two canyons.

Antelope Canyon has been formed primarily by flash floods, which change the shape of the red rocks and expose different areas. Although flash floods are exceptionally dangerous (11 tourists died from a flash flood in 1997 in the lower canyon despite very little rain having fallen at the canyon that day), the tour guides hope for flash floods as they change the shape of the canyon in beautiful and unpredictable ways.

Unfortunately because I wasn’t allowed to take a tripod into the general tour and because we’d had a petrol mishap on the way to the canyon which caused us to arrive after midday (which is the peak time to take photos of the light streaming through the canyon), the photos I took weren’t as good as I was hoping for. The inside of the canyon gets very very dark with very bright light streaming through the cracks and openings at the top which is difficult to capture correctly on a DSLR without a tripod. The majority of photographs shown below are taken near the entrance which has more light.

The tour lasted 1.5 hours, was lead by a full native Navajo (Native American Indian from that region), cost us US$48 each, and was breathtaking to say the least. Highly recommended.

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