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  • Peggy Simonsen

Amazing Geology in red rock country

Northern Arizona has some of the most spectacular geology in the country. You can see it by driving through the countryside, or on the rim of the Grand Canyon, but it's jaw dropping to hike up close as I recently did with my friend Barb. With our base in Page, AZ at the Utah border, we explored the area. One sojourn was over the Utah border to hike White Pocket, a National Recreation Area in the midst of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. We went with a local guide who drove us the two-hour, dirt road and trail to get there, then hiked for four hours on and amidst the incredible rock formations. There is no path, so it was good to have a guide who knew the area from many years as a guide there. White Pocket is named for the white limestone in the center of the cirque, surrounded by red sandstone. The limestone is younger geologically, so it is usually above the sandstone, but in this case it is reversed, and everywhere swirled together. Spectacular!

Next day we lined up with the crowd to explore Antelope Canyon, a more famous site- a slot canyon. It is in Navajo territory, with a Navajo guide required. While thousands of people go into the canyon daily, they do have it very well organized. 14 people go in a truck to the entrance at a time, and wait till the group in front have moved a few feet before our group entered. I usually try to avoid touristy areas that are so overwhelmed with people, but this was definitely worth it. Our guide was great, giving lots of info about the history of the canyon and showing us the best angle to get our photos- all looking up! The slot canyon is 400 meters long, an easy hike, but with all the photo time, we spent about 45 minutes. I have never understood how people can drown in a canyon or an arroyo when there is a flash flood, (Can’t they float or swim?) but here it was clear-when a thunderstorm drops a huge amount of rain at once, it all rushes into the canyon and swirls at high speed against the rock walls- over the centuries carving bowls and amazing shapes in the rock. There are warnings at the entrance that say, “Do not enter if there are thunderstorm warnings.” People have drowned ignoring that.

Driving south to Flagstaff and through the Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona was another opportunity to be engulfed in the amazing red rock geology, though we drove through one of those gully-washer thunderstorms. Again in spite of the volume of tourists in town, we hiked in the Red Rock State Park and marveled at the spectacular vistas all around.

While Phoenix was still 100 degrees in October, the north country was mostly sunny and comfortable 80s during the day and 60s in the evenings.

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