Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Monument Valley

If there is one place that is iconic and
stereotypical of all things "Wild West", it
would have to be Monument Valley. Even more
than the canyon, it's buttes and vistas are
recognizable to most around the world. From
TV commercials for cars, to magazine ads for
toothpaste, it's pretty much seen it all.

We spent the night at Goulding's Lodge.
It's the only lodging in the valley and provides
great service and friendly staff. We stayed
here about 10 years ago and have been by
several times on our way through for lunch.
Each room has it's own view and since it was
nearly a full moon, we got a view both night
and day. It was originally a trading post
opened in the 1920's by Harry Goulding and
his wife "Mike". Lifelong friends of the
Navajo, Harry brought famous Hollywood director
John Ford out for a visit and the rest was
history. Ford made several famous movies
in Monument Valley with John Wayne, including
"She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "Stagecoach".

Other movies have been made in the Valley,
including "The Eiger Sanction" with Clint
Eastwood and Back to the Future 3. In other
words...some good, some bad! Nonetheless,
one of the famous views often used is from
a location called John Ford's Point. We
took the dirt road in our own vehicle, but
if we were with a Navajo-led tour, a person
on a horse would go out to the point to pose
for the tourists. Kind of hokey, but nonetheless
a famous photograph. I have one of these photos
from several years ago, but it's buried somewhere
in our storage unit...oh well.

As I stated, you can either take a tour or make
the loop drive through the valley on your own.
It's 17 miles round trip and gives you some
flexibility. We've been here before, but if
it's your first time, and you have a spare 40
bucks or so, it's definitely worth it to take
the tour. I took the Goulding's tour back in
1991 and it was really informative. With the
tour you also get to see some views you wouldn't
see, some Ancient Puebloan (Anasazi) petroglyphs
and get to visit the hogan of a local Navajo

There are a handful of Navajo families that
still live in Monument Valley in all states
of modernization. Tourists are asked not to
intrude on their lives and I would like to
think that most people don't. We met a few
at overlooks and viewpoints throughout the
valley including one young woman with her
baby that was outgoing and somewhat chatty.
Many Navajo are fairly reserved and quiet.
Some might confuse this as rudeness but it
is just their way. The Navajo are a good
people and are just trying to lead a nice
life like most tourists that come to see them.

After leaving the valley, we drove about 15
miles into Utah for the famous highway photo
that has been seen everywhere from "Forrest
Gump" to the newest cover of Lonely Planet's
"Southwest USA" guidebook. I never seem to
be there when the sun is just right and don't
have the professional cameras that some use,
but it's a fun place to be. Not too many
places around that one can sit in the middle
of the road and even if you can see a car
coming, it's ten miles away on the horizon.
While we were there, a couple of people
rode their heavily laden bikes past us,
looking like they were on a very long trip.
We took their pictures and left them a note
farther down the road letting them know that
we would send them the pix if they emailed us.
No word from them yet, but maybe someday.

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