Monument valley stands out in my memory of the parks like a vision. There are specific reasons for this. We left from the 4 corners, headed to Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde is immersed in a deep shade of green, but the ground is covered in red dust. This dust blows in from Monument valley, which is a fair distance away to begin with. As you drive from Mesa Verde to Monument Valley, you will pass the road that leads to Natural Bridges, Utah. If you have time, take this detour, it’s not that far. Although these parks are close to each other geographically speaking, visually, they are world’s apart. Approaching Monument Valley you pass the Valley of the God’s. This park doesn’t come off as a destination as far as advertising goes, but the hair will rise on the back of your neck anyway. You now feel the valley (Monument Valley) is close.
We came on to Monument Valley at dusk, on the tail of a dust storm. The wind was whipping up clouds of dust in a frenzy, the air was thick like smoke. The Monuments looks small and dim from afar, back lit, seemingly insignificant. The dust storm took most of our attention. Getting closer, the Monuments grow until at last revealing their true size, shape, and form. Awe inspiring, magnetic in the way they draw you in. The dark red tone of the landscape and Monoliths combined create a common ground that is calming and reassuring. Knowing that you are in the cradle of the Navajo people, gives peace and tranquility. We head for the closest monolith for it’s protection from the wind.
We slept that night unknowingly, just outside the entrance of the park. We woke up to sunny skies, and beautiful morning light. A far cry from the night before, the monuments immediately back to their original glory, and full splendor. The cold brisk wind, a reminder of what was, but telling the storm has passed, enough to take your breath away. The place looks like it should be warm but the reality of it for us, is shocking. In the park you finally feel like you are actually in the valley, as if we’d passed through an invisible wall or barrier. The scale is immense, the monuments so vast, it’s hard to see where the valley begins and ends. We acquire a map and set out in the van on the 17-mile loop through the park.
For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip across the country. Every turn you take reveals another more unusual and exotic landscape. Not one monument is like another, save the two brothers, also known as the mittens, are mirror images of each other. It’s uncanny. They’re enormous, like they were sculpted by the same prolific artist. The road is mostly sand, but you can take a 2wd car if you have some prowess behind the wheel. There were tours driving by us with open air seating, truck loads of tourists frozen stiff in the back, with the Navajo driver/tour guide communicating through a loudspeaker, in the comfort of the heated cab. Quite the spectacle, we feel content in the shelter of our home and closed vehicle. We pick a view and stop for break/fast lunch, the day now warming up. There are stands along the loop, manned by local Navajo’s selling their homemade pendants, jewelry, and souvenirs. Each stand holds something precious and invaluable. Ingrid finds a beautiful turquoise pendant/necklace I immediately eye it, she lovingly and graciously leaves it to me. I purchase this necklace from the woman who seems very content with herself and her spot. Well adverse in her surroundings and informative, she tells us some of the Navajo names and stories of the monuments, and admits that it’s colder than usual. Eventually, after meeting some of the various landmarks and monoliths, you reach Artist’s point. This is a pinnacle point and stop along the way. Make sure that if you see a restroom, use it, because they are few and far between, and you will most certainly feel guilty desecrating this sacred land. Artist’s point is a perfect view in very way, our timing was right on. I learn a lot from Ingrid and the valley about lighting, it’s power and effect. If it wasn’t obvious before, it is now. The sun casts a magic spell on the valley. The Monuments, like mirrors, absorb, reflect, combat this magic, and radiate it as pure energy. The tale of what is and was is written all over the stones, to read it is to believe it. We finish the loop, exhilarated.
Realizing we’ve hardly set foot on the ground, decide to take the parks only hike, a 4 mile loop around one of the mittens. We gear up a set out in the perfect afternoon light. It’s cold enough for a jacket, but warm enough to leave it open. The wind comes rifling through the valley, uninhibited. As you get on the trail the giant monuments block the wind, creating a comfortable and inviting atmosphere. To walk around one of the monuments, and see it from all sides, to be immersed in the valley, close enough to touch, feel, breathe and truly experience it, to hold court with the giants of the past, the holy mountains, and their righteous inhabitants, to be among the people who have been living off, caring for, and protecting these lands for all time, is to be one with life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Heaps of gratitude towards the Navajo, they graciously allow people who don’t know or believe in the power and magnitude of this land to experience it, even though they knowingly or unknowingly defile it. The valley is famous in American culture, thanks to Hollywood and the old western films. One in particular is Stagecoach, directed by John Ford in 1939, starring Claire Trevor and John Wayne.
We finish our hike, head back to the van, the wind comes back into play as we come off the trail, slightly less than when we started, as the day is now coming to an end. The sun low in the sky, but still riding high and burning with a steadfast fury, also seems slightly less intense. We reflect on our experience and I wonder if this one full day was enough to really see the park. Ingrid assures me it is. I trust her confidence and intuition as we drive off into the sunset.