Monday, April 14, 2014

Monument Valley

April 10 - 12, 2014:

At the dump station, the couple ahead of me asked how it was in South Dakota, I hear that a lot because of the South Dakota plates.  I then have to go through the explanation about it's only a mailing service location, I'm actually from New Jersey.  The woman then says, Oh, I lived in Long Branch, NJ for a few months which I followed with, really, well I did too.  That seemed ironic, but we seem to run into many people who have lived in New Jersey one time or another.

We moved another hundred miles north, taking route 191 north to the town of "Many Farms" and then route 59 north to route 160 west to route 163 north to the town of Kayenta.  Route 59 was an incredibly beautiful ride, I could barely keep my eyes on the road.  There were many places, I wished for a wide shoulder or place to pull over to take a photo.  I am pretty good at taking photos when driving through the windshield, but it's not something I would condone, kind of like texting while driving. Kayenta is a sizable Navajo town with a MacDonalds (that's civilization), a large grocery store, an Ace hardware, a bank and assorted stores and restaurants.  Our destination, Gouldings Monument Valley Camp Park, was 24 miles north of Kayenta on route 163, another eye straining scenic ride.  This campground is one of the most expensive we have ever stayed in, but the setting and amenities are almost beyond compare.  The premium sites have views of Monument Valley, although the sites are rather close together and our view is now that of a big class A Motor Home.  That's the way it often goes in a campground setting.

Campground setting
After getting set up, we rode out to Monument Valley 4 miles away and checked out the visitors center exhibits, the gift store, looked out at the landscape from the viewing deck and then took a short ride on the torture road for a mile or so.  We will be doing more of that road latter, most likely all 16 miles of it.  We also checked out the Goulding museum exhibits and gift shop back at the campground.  The Gouldings, Harry and his wife Leone, who he nicknamed Mike are a story made for Hollywood.  They came here with practically nothing, bought a property and started a trading post.  They heard that Hollywood people were looking for locations for western movies, drove to Hollywood with Monument Valley photos and camped on director John Ford's doorstep until he would see them.  Ford decided to use Monument Valley as a location for filming and made several classic westerns starring John Wayne and others.  The Trading post became a lodge with restaurant and the movie people stayed there during filming. The film industry put the place on the map and turned it into a icon of the west and tourist destination.

View from Goulding's museum
Twinkles is looking forward to getting the RV clean and doing laundry first thing in the morning.  I envy couples who can do these kinds of activities happily together, but we sure can't.  As a result, I get booted out when interior cleaning needs to be done, but I do all the outside stuff so I guess it all evens out.  So, I went on a two short hikes near the campground to a stone arch and then into a box canyon.

An arch just behind the campground

Pale evening primrose, they are blooming all over

A view behind the campground

Another view behind campground

View in the Box canyon near the campground

I'm ready for some hiking
In the afternoon, it was back to Monument Valley to do the full 16 mile loop road.  This road has sections that are extremely rough, not sure how some of standard cars made it through.  The Jeep was great in the sandy stuff, but was a hard bouncy ride on the rocky rough sections. The Navajo's are doing well at this park, $5 per person to get in, a huge hotel on site with restaurant and gift shop.  Also they operate jeep and truck guided tours for those not willing to beat up their car.  We saw a really funny thing at "John Ford's Point" which is one of the most popular view points in the park.  The Navajo's have a horse there and for $2 dollars you can get on the horse and get your photo taken.  As we are walking around 3 or 4 tour vans came in loaded with asian tourists, who quickly lined up to get a photo on the horse.  In the evening, we ate dinner at Goulding's, I had the Indian taco and Twinkles had the fry bread with green chili, both really good. 

The Jeep is getting a 4WD workout here

Monument Valley 

Twinkles at John Ford Point

Another Monument Valley sight

The classic Mitten monument photo

Love the color of the red rock sand

Beautiful views in all directions

Saturday starts off rather cloudy as we take to the road for a ride to Mexican Hat, Utah.  The ride is fantastic like everything around these parts is.  Mexican Hat crosses the San Juan River which is a large full flowing river.  It is a small town with a few restaurants and tourist amenities but most importantly has the Mexican Hat Rock which the town is named for.  We then went a few miles further north to the "Valley of the Gods" road.  We had no idea what to expect although it was on the map as a scenic attraction.  It was a 17 mile dirt road, so right away we go into 4 wheel drive mode.  The drive was amazing and part way through the clouds started to get interesting and there were even breaks of sun and blue sky.  It was very close to Monument Valley in the "Wow" factor but the road itself was way better, mostly smooth with lots of rolling terrain  that was fun to drive on.  It then became stormy, with dark ominous clouds and then even a period of rain.  After completing the drive, we returned to Mexican Hat and stopped at the "Old Bridge Grill"  for lunch, more fry bread !  It is in a nice setting next to the bridge over the San Juan River.  It was also interesting inside and the food was very good.  Everywhere we went, we saw dozens of Mustang cars with a windshield logo's identifying them as part of a French tour group.  A group of them came into the Grill as we were there, dressed a bit foreign, and looking somewhat silly with their cowboy hats on.

San Juan River Bridge

Mexican Hat Rock

View at Valley of the Gods

And another

And another

And another

Road view in Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods may be equal to Monument Valley
with better road and no crowds
A road view coming back towards Monument Valley
The traditional Navajo dwelling, the "Hogan" is a very efficient home, small, low maintenance, but very comfortable.  I may get one if or when I need a fixed living place again.  I also need someplace where I can get "Fry bread", I'm loving it.

A stone Navajo Hogan

Good grub !

In the evening, we went to a small theater they have behind the Goulding Lodge and museum and watched the classic western movie "Stagecoach" starring John Wayne, which was shot in Monument Valley.  That was a good way to end our experience there.

A young John Wayne

In the morning, we depart heading 120 miles or so to Page, Arizona for a few days.

Happy Trails Indeed,
Twinkles and Slick

1 comment:

  1. As usual, your photos do not disappoint! They are beautiful. Reminds me of my trek through Moab a few years back. Funny, but there is a great quilt shop there!

    Will email you soon to catch up!