Thursday, July 4, 2013

Monument Valley, AZ/UT

Words fail... Click to view full size
My travel journal entry for Friday 19, October, 2012 begins:

Today I died and went to heaven - and I have the photos to prove it.

Yes, that was the day I fulfilled a life-long ambition to visit Monument Valley. The valley spans the Arizona/Utah border, with the most iconic buttes and mesas on the Utah side. It was everything I expected it to be and more. Even in the middle of the day the setting was larger than life, with massive red monoliths dominating the landscape.

I had been driving my Dodge rental car up from Flagstaff, Arizona for several hours, watching as the landscape slowly changed from pine forested open country to vast expanses of dry desert covered in the valley's distinctive vivid red―a colour which is produced from iron oxide exposed in the siltstone covering the valley floor. In many respects the colour of the earth reminded me of the rich reds and ochres of the Australian outback, especially in an area often referred to as the ‘red centre’.

Welcoming billboard on the Arizona/Utah state line
Monument Valley (Navajo: Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning valley of the rocks) is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona-Utah state line near the Four Corners area. The valley lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation, and is accessible from U.S. Highway 163. [Wikipedia…]
The American director, John Ford used the location for a number of his best known films, including his now classic 1939 movie, Stagecoach, and The Searchers, while the latest Hollywood film to feature scenes shot in the valley is The Lone Ranger, which coincidentally opens today in the cinema complex a few minutes walk from where I sit writing this.

One of the massive outcrops in Monument Valley

To my surprise, the cost to enter the park was a very modest $5.00. Once inside the park visitors can drive on a 17-mile (27 km) dirt road (a 2-3 hour trip) that passes some of the largest and most spectacular land formations. Guided tours are also available, as are horse rides and overnight camping trips. Apparently, hot air balloon flights are also available between May 1 through October 31, although I did not see any during my visit.

Sadly, my day trip to Monument Valley was over way too soon. The eleven hour round trip outing left me tired but exhilarated, and wanting much more. Far from removing the valley from my ‘bucket list’, the area remains among the top ten locations on the planet I want to visit or return to. When I do return to Monument Valley, I want to make the Navajo Tribal Park a major part of my experience, and I figure the only way to do that properly is find accommodations inside the Tribal Park.

Thankfully this is easily done following the construction of The View Hotel, located right inside Monument Valley.

The View Hotel [image courtesy The View Hotel website...]

The View Hotel is the only hotel located inside Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park adjacent to the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitors Center. Each of the hotel’s 95 rooms features a private balcony with unobstructed views of the valley floor, and the massive sandstone monuments that tower out of the stunning landscape.

Just writing and thinking about my visit, makes me want to pack my bag and catch the next flight to Los Angeles! But patience is the order of the day, at least until next year. Then all being well, I will make my return to the valley of my dreams.

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