exploring northern arizona sandstone deserts barrett haghighat

Exploring Northern Arizona's Sandstone Deserts 

By Connor Barrett & Amon Haghighat 

@AZPILOTLIFE

 

Our one day adventure included a cross country flight to Page (KPGA) and an early morning tour of Lower Antelope Canyon. This tourist site had been an interest for both of us, but the long drive discouraged us from going. Antelope Canyon has often been described as the sandstone wonder of Northern Arizona, one of the most desirable and adventurous outdoor attractions that brings tourists from all over our country and the world. Our goal was to see for ourselves the canyon which was formed from a combination of wind, rain, and erosion. It is said to be one of the many natural wonders to be seen in Page, Arizona. With our ability to reach our destination of interest in half the time of driving, it was clear to us that we were less than two hours away from this world wonder.

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There are a couple of different tour companies for lower Antelope Canyon. We googled them and picked the company that had a time slot available for us. There are different tours that can be done, like photo tours or informative tours, and their websites explain all of this, plus other information including that you are allowed to bring in water, but no large backpacks. Also, it is usually cash only at the tour offices! The tour office that we chose had a small cafe/gift shop, and the town of Page has quite a few restaurants.

Destination picked, flight plan filed, and full weather briefing received. A smooth flight is to be expected cruising at 9,500 feet due to no forecasted adverse weather conditions. As we get access to the ramp to start our pre-flight inspection, we instantly smelled the jet exhaust. The smell of jet fuel heightened our senses and increased our excitement for our flight to Page Municipal Airport (KPGA).

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The sun peeked over the eastern horizon as we lined up on runway three at Scottsdale Airport. The tower cleared us for a northbound take off, and immediately we put the plane into full power, engaged the right rudder, made sure our airspeed was alive, and rotated. We were off the ground! Climbing northbound over Sky Ranch at Carefree (18AZ) we approached our cruising altitude of 9,500 feet and completed the climb and cruise checklists. In our trajectory, we were able to enjoy and admire the sculpted red cliffs of Sedona. The remaining forty minutes of our flight was spent discussing the exciting day we had planned. All of a sudden, in the distance, we saw the sandstone deserts of Northern Arizona. The GPS alerted us that we were twenty miles away. Knowing we were at a short distance, we started our descent checklists and prepared for landing.

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Ten miles south of the airport, we had visual of runway 33 at KPGA. We tuned into the ASOS to receive current airport information and approached the runway from the south, setting us up for a straight in approach for runway 33. We kept visual on other traffic in the area and called out our three mile final. As we approached the runway threshold, we pulled the power to idle, entered ground effect, and safely landed at KPGA.

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The ramp crew gave us a ride from the ramp to the FBO office where Classic Aviation telephoned Buggy Taxi service for a quick lift to Lower Antelope Canyon. Within 20 minutes we arrived at the tourist office at the canyon. The scheduled reservation guaranteed us a spot in a tour group. Our guide, Dakota, greeted the tour group outside of the entrance to the canyon. He provided necessary information for a safe tour and guided us to the first set of stairs that led to the canyon. We entered into the belly of the sandstone slot canyon and our eyes danced around the canyon walls, taking in every detail. The tour lasted about one hour, with frequent stops to snap pictures and learn about the canyon’s stories and formation. Walking through the canyon, enjoying every twist and turn ahead we climbed the last set of stairs out of the canyon, smiling and talking about what we enjoyed the most.

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The hour long tour opened our appetites, so we decided to eat a snack at the tour office. After eating our snack we made our way back to the airport to begin preflight inspection and start our journey back to KSDL. Taking off runway 33, we started our turn southbound climbing to 10,500. The time passed quickly on our two hour flight back as we reminisced and recounted the day’s experiences and planned for our next trip to nearby Horseshoe Bend or Lake Powell.

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