From the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley

Trip Start Jul 28, 2008
Trip End Aug 06, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Saturday, August 2, 2008

I thought that the view from outside our hotel was incredible but I was even more dazzled by our next stop at Desert View (located on the eastern end of the South Rim). 

It was relatively early in the morning when we arrived at the Desert View viewing area.  There is not a whole lot there besides a small trading post, a place to grab a snack, and public toilets.  But then again, you don't need much when you have the Grand Canyon looming in front of you.

There is a Watch Tower perched on the rim designed by Mary Colter.  Visitors can view the canyon from inside the tower or from the observation platforms built around it.  We wanted to maximize our time,so Maggie and I opted to view the canyon from the different platforms.

We were not disappointed.

If the views were simply spectacular.  Far below you could spot the mighty Colorado River   that had carved out the canyon.  The view at this particular part of the canyon gives you even a better idea of just how large the canyon is.  It is approximately 277 miles long and the width can approach 20 miles.  It is also a mile down in spots.  Where we stood seemed to be one of those spots and I was very happy to have a good strong railing keeping me from tumbling over.

From the beauty of the Grand Canyon, we moved into Navajo Country but not before spotting several wildfires burning off in the distance.  Did you know that if a wildfire is started in a national park by natural causes, the Forestry Service lets it burn itself out?  I didn't.

It seemed my ignorance about this part of the United States was worse than I thought.  I knew that the Navajo had a large reservation but I had no idea that it existed in multiple states.  I was also impressed to find out that the Navajo are determined for the members of their tribe to earn money by working hard and that's why they have resisted building casinos on their land.  They have not, however, resisted the temptation to build gift shops or craft stands.  Signs for them are everywhere.

One of the most impressive parts of the Navajo Reservation is Monument Valley and we were lucky enough to be staying right in the heart of it.  Our hotel, Goulding's Lodge, was a basic hotel nestled in amongst the rock formations.  This time the view of our room did not include any minivans but large rock formations dotting the horizon.

That night we climbed into the back of a converted pickup truck (the bed was converted to hold padded benches which were relatively comfortable but a bit bumpy) and headed into the desert for a cookout hosted by local Navajos.  Little can compare to eating steak and all the fixings, prepared in the traditional Navajo way, surrounded by large red colored rock formations.  The kids on the trip, including my 13 year old, couldn't get enough of them climbing up and down them like some sort of ancient playground.

The next morning I rose early to photograph the sunrise.  I'm happy to say that I had much more success doing that than I did photographing the sunset at the Grand Canyon.  Maggie, however, opted to view the insides of her eyelids and missed the entire thing informing me that she would look at my pictures later.

Later that morning we had more fascinating sights to see as we once again climbed into the trucks, which they called 'jeeps', and headed into Monument Valley proper.

Owned by the Navajo, they run organized tours of the area which is massive in size.  You can also travel there on your own or, in the near future, stay in a hotel on the property.

The formations were huge and it was fun to hear what they were called and to see if we could spot what the Native Americans had seen when they named them.  Some were easy, some were not.

This location was 'discovered' by John Ford and used in westerns starting with 'Stagecoach' starring John Wayne many decades ago.  It is still being used today and when you see it, you can understand why.  The scenery represents our vision of what the West is and was perfectly.

A couple of hints if you plan to visit this area.  Bring plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen and some cash if you think you many want to buy some handmade Indian crafts.  Also, don't wear anything that you don't want to see get dirty.  We were all brushing red dust out of our hair and off our clothes for hours after leaving the park.

As our Navajo guide told us, 'it is so dry and dusty in Monument Valley, that you really get a taste of it.'
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