Today’s drive was to one off the most outstandingly scenic places in Western America – Monument Valley. It’s just a hop step and a jump across the border into Arizona and on Navajo tribal land.
Most of our trip was across a large plateau with occasional small mesas and buttes rising from the landscape. We passed through two little towns – one of which was Blanding. It lived up to the bland part of its name as there wasn’t anything in the town the we could find that was interesting. The biggest building was a large Mormon church and the second largest was a nearby Mortuary (Undertaker). Perhaps they are working some sort of contra deal.
Around lunch time, the road dropped down an escarpment to a little town called Bluff. I assume that if it were at the top of the escarpment it might have been called ‘Plateau’, but as it was, it had a very appropriate name. We stopped to stretch our legs at an historic area which was the original site of a Fort built by the early Mormon settlers. Some of the buildings are original although others are recreations of original structures. The people were very friendly and explained some of the history to us. It’s clear that these early settlers were formidable people. We stopped for an early lunch at a cafe that was nestled right under the bluff.
A little way further on is at the Goosenecks State Park. It’s here that the San Jose River winds in two large loops through the ancient sandstone deposits. It was an awe-inspiring site and well worth the short detour off the highway.
Further on we passed through the little town of Mexican Hat, named for a rock formation just above the town. It’s another SW American town that has very little going for it other than a motel and an outdoor store.
We could see the rock features of Monument Valley emerging over the horizon from quite a distance. I took this photo from Forest Gump Point It’s the very place where, in there movie, he stopped running and said “I’m tired now, I think I’ll go home”.
The area is part of the Colorado Plateau with the elevation of the valley floor ranging from 1,500 to 1,800 metres above sea level. The floor is largely siltstone deposited by the meandering rivers that carved the valley. The valley’s vivid red color comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker, blue-gray rocks in the valley get their color from manganese oxide. The buttes are clearly stratified, with three principal layers – the lowest layer is Shale, the middle is Sandstone, and the top layer is Conglomerate.
This whole area is Navajo Land. These people face the same problems as do indigenous people in other countries – high unemployment, alcoholism and family violence). We were quite happy to pay the $20 entry fee that also gave us access to the Monument Valley Drive from which we could see all the monuments up close. We also bought some small jewellery items from local stall holders.
It turns out that we accidentally arrived here at a good time of day. The sun was in the right direction and the sky had interesting cloud formations. The Valley Road is 17 miles long and has eleven numbered view points, each with a spectacular outlook. In places the road is very rough and so most of the way, you drive at the regulation speed of 15 mph.
In the middle of the valley is John Ford Point. This is where this famed movie director sat in his deck chair on the rock ledge in the fore ground of my photo below, directing the action on the plain in the distance. John Wayne starred in a number of movies that were filmed here.
Other views in the valley were equally as stunning.
The view from Artists Point gave us broad panoramic across the entire landscape.
We left Monument Valley just before 5.00 pm for our overnight stop at Kayenta, about 22 miles away. Our hotel here is on tribal land so it doesn’t sell alcohol in the restaurant. We were limited to non-alcoholic wine and beer. It’s a bit of a change, but nothing we can’t accept for one night. In fact, there is nowhere to buy alcohol anywhere at all in the town.