Tuesday May 20 at Moab Utah for Saturday-Sunday May 17-18, Monument Valley, Arizona
Monument Valley is a Navajo Nation Tribal Park, not a U.S. National Park. We are staying at the View Hotel, owned and operated by the Navajo. It is situated with each hotel room having a direct view of Monument Valley’s stone monuments.
A visitor can access parts of Monument Valley. Other portions are only available to visitors who hire a Navajo tribal guide. We decided to go with a four hour guided tour. All tours are paid in cash. For those of us who are used to formal accounting processes, one wonders about the accountability.
The vehicles are usually a modified pick up truck with three rows of raised bench seats with a canvas sunshield in place of the pickup bed. The road that is traversed is dirt and rough. High clearance vehicles are strongly recommended. We observed several private cars embarking on the road, we hoped they made it safely. Our Saturn would certainly not have.
Dan was our guide. We had one other person on the tour. Larry is a football coach who has made numerous visits to Indian country. We had enjoyable discussions with him over the course of the tour.
Like most areas within the Navajo Nation, there are also numerous opportunities to purchase native art, jewelry, leather products, etc. If you visit this area, it seems like every scenic overlook, wayside rest, or even wider spot in the road has several vendors.
Anyway, back to Monument Valley. Over the course of the three hours, we descended to the valley floor so the base of the monuments are at our level and we look up at the tops. The valley floor is also home to many Navajo families who live here, raising crops and horses, living without running water and electricity in order to preserve native ways.
The formations vary from slender rock monuments to massive buttes. Many of them are named for their shape. In my mind, like astronomy, you need a vivid imagination to align the monument with its name. Two exceptions, left and right hand mitten do seem to clearly resemble mittens. We observed several arches along the route.
In the afternoon, we went through the museum attached to the hotel and restaurant. It had a special exhibit focused on the WWII Navajo Code Talkers-the special group of Navajo assigned to the Marines in the Pacific War who transmitted messages to Marine units in Navajo code that the Japanese could not crack. There was a section that related how uranium mining occurred here during the 1950s to 1970s; how it profited certain corporations but the uranium health impact was very slow to be revealed and medical help not provided. It was not until 1990 that the US accepted responsibility and not until 2008 that clean up activities begun.
Dinner was at a privately owned restaurant/lodge/tour center across the street. Actually, as I reflect better, it is about 6 miles away and across the state line in Utah. There is so much open land here, 6 miles seems across the street. Getting to our hotel meant driving through Arizona from Page, crossing into Utah, and then as we drive up to the hotel and tribal park, we double back into Arizona.
Sunday, Canyon de Chelly (Shay)
Canyon de Chelly was established as a national monument in 1931, however, it is on land owned entirely by Navajo. It is the only such cooperatively owned/managed park unit. We reached it after a two-hour drive from Monument Valley going southeast into Arizona.
Canyon de Chelly is reputed to be one of the oldest continually inhabited landscapes in the US, going back to 2500 BCE.. In more recent times, Col. Kit Carson in 1863 and 1864, entered the canyon, killing Navajo, their animals, and destroying homes. Survivors were forced to walk 300 miles to Fort Sumner in New Mexico where they were interred until allowed to return in 1868.
Today, families still live in the valley. Once again, if you wish to visit the floor of the canyon, it must be done with a tribal guide. This time we opted for just viewing the canyons from the North and South rim drives. The canyon walls vary in height from 30 feet at one mouth to 1000 feet. The rim drives are accessed from roads that look no different from many others we have driven on. The canyon appears almost out of thin air once you take the access roads leading from the main highway.
The views are almost magical as you look down into this immense canyon with green next to the creek on the canyon floor. Homes and people can be spotted periodically. No way down from the rim to the floor was obvious to us.
Our drive back to The View Hotel in Monument Valley had two new twists. One, we came upon one of those wind-driven sand storms that makes driving a challenge. Two, the warning light for low engine coolant came on. The car was not overheating so we decided to resolve that issue Monday.
at the end I have attached a brief video from Monument Valley. I hope it replays satisfactorily
Ed and Chris May 20 10:45 pm