Cardiac Canyon, Arizona, USA by Charles Hooker

Picture Story

Three years ago I found out about a new, virtually unexplored slot canyon on the Navajo Nation from my mentor, Frank Ruggles. Frank was invited to be the first to photograph this slot. Cardiac Canyon, hidden deep in the landscape, is one of the most beautiful slot canyons anywhere; equal to Antelope, but without the crowds. It's appropriately named Cardiac, perhaps for the sheer heart-stopping beauty, or for the steep descent down to the floor.

Accompanied by two Native guides, I explored Cardiac up, down, and sideways for almost 5 hours. Light and clouds danced to create new patterns continuously across the surfaces. Almost unnoticed, high on a wall, was a petroglyph of a snake carved into the surface by ancient visitors. A cool breeze wafted through; sand, thrown into the air, transformed into ephemeral shapes... It was humbling to realize that I was in a sacred space that until recently was known only to tribal members... The spiritual energy was palpable.

The crazy slide down into Cardiac was equaled by the strenuous hand-rope climb back out. If this weren't enough to snap me back to reality, what came next certainly did. The Suburban got stuck to the axles in the soft sand. The tires were ready to burst from the intense heat. After letting the air out of the tires, the 3 of us dug the wheels out, put the floor mats out for traction, and with two of us pushing, got the vehicle back onto terra firma.

Most of the images of desert slots seem overly processed to me. Colorized, like a 1960's postcard. My preferred style emphasizes shape and mood monochromatically. I feel that this brings out the essence of space without the distraction of color.

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