The Wild West

Trip Start Aug 26, 2011
Trip End Sep 13, 2011

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Where I stayed
Gouldings Campground
What I did
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of United States  , Utah
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Monument Valley is located just over the border from Arizona, in the state of Utah. It is about a 4 hour drive from Williams to the border, and the road is very flat for most of the trip. As designated driver (the one over 25) I got to stare at the stretch of never ending road, while Simon got to snooze. The landscape across Arizona is one of extremes; it would change rapidly from flat grassland to wave type red rock formations with layered red and white sand hills. While the drive was not an amazing scenic one, it was so different from Australia and the UK (our home lands) that it was interesting. Eventually we started to see these massive rock mountains rising up out of the flat desert in the distance. As we got closer they loomed high overhead, amazing giant natural rock formations, stark in contrast to an otherwise barren landscape.

We found our way to Golding’s Campgrounds where we had rented a cabin for the evening. The campground is located approximately 6 miles from the Monument Valley Tribal Park, and was the cheapest accommodation we could find that wasn’t miles away. The campgrounds are a part of the Golding’s Lodge franchise. The Lodge was home to John Ford and John Wayne during the filming of many classic western films such as Stagecoach and The Searchers. If you are looking to stay at either location make sure you book early, as they book out up to 6 months in advance during peak periods. Our cabin was small, but cosy, and for two people was a perfect size. We had our own kitchen, bathroom, and bed, all the necessities covered.

Once we had unloaded the car, we headed off to Monument Valley Tribal Park. Entry was a measly $5, so cheap, we paid our dues and parked in the car park and headed up to the lookout. There is a visitor’s centre with a whole lot of historical stuff, but we bypassed that, as really the action is outside. The monuments are massive, but what makes them fascinating is the way they seem to erupt out of the flat desert. A mountain range has foothills, bigger hills, then mountains, and then peaks; the whole series builds you up to the next big thing. The monuments don’t have any build up, it’s just flat desert, then giant rock structure, then straight back to flat desert, then the next giant rock structure, it is fantastic. Many people bring their SUVs so they can drive down into the park and get up close and personal with the monuments. Alternatively there is no shortage of local Navajo guides willing to take you on a tour. We decided to walk down the red dirt road to get a bit closer to the first monument, the three sisters. We headed down the road taking lots of happy snaps along the way, and after about 30-45 minutes decided we were too hot and dehydrated to go any further. We took our last pictures, then headed back up the hill to the lookout.

For dinner I am sure you can head to Goulding’s Lodge, but we took the opportunity to visit the local supermarket and make our first (sort of) homemade meal for ages. Chicken salad and bread rolls went down a treat and we watched the sunset change the colours of the monuments to a deep burning orange before the mosquitoes sent us inside. One thing I do recommend is getting up in the night and having a look at the stars. Out in the middle of the desert, with no city light for miles, you get billions of stars to gaze at. We also made an effort to get up at sunrise, which is also worth doing, as the colours over the tribal park is very beautiful – makes for excellent pictures!

Since it takes approximately 7 hours to get from Monument Valley to Las Vegas we hit the road early and were back in sin city by just after lunch. Next up, Viva Las Vegas!
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