Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend

Trip Start Jun 05, 2010
Trip End Jul 25, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Monday, June 28, 2010

We had some time this morning as Mary and Murray had opted to see Horseshoe Bend in the morning whilst we wanted to see it at sunset. We took an easy breakfast and had some time to catch up using the free wifi at the hotel!

We left for the two and a half hour drive to Monument Valley at 10:30. Surrounding Page is the Navajo Indian Reservation. Pronounced Nava-Ho this Indian tribe were the native inhabitants of this area of the south west before the United States spread westwards. This land has been given back to them and they now have a degree of sovereignty within it. Whilst still a part of the United States and I believe subject to Federal Laws they are able to function seemingly as an independent state, having their own president, legislature and police force. The Navajo Indian reservation covers parts of Arizona and Utah and possibly extends further eastwards into New Mexico and Colorado. It is likely only a small part of their original lands; however it is still a vast area and home to over 180,000 Navajo Indians. The land around Page was given back to the government in exchange for some more desirable land elsewhere. The government valued the land at Page to build another large dam on the Colorado River that generates more hydro electric power. The Navajo Reservation also observes daylight saving which leads to some confusing changes of the clock

Travelling eastwards towards Monument Valley the landscape began to open up slowly and the large buttes and mesas the area is famous for begin appearing. Approaching Monument Valley the landscape began to turn a deeper red in colour. As Monument Valley is located on Navajo land all tours are operated by Navajo guides. We pull into Goulding's lodge and wait for our Navajo tour guide to arrive.

We board an open backed pickup truck with bench seats in the back that fortunately is covered on top to shelter us from the harsh sun. Our guide initially takes us to a traditional Navajo Hogan which is similar to an Igloo but made of wood and mud. I doubt snow and ice would last long here! I was impressed with how cool the air was inside. Van later told me the lady inside promptly switched off her well hidden air conditioning as we entered! They told us a little about traditional Navajo life and demonstrated weaving and colouring of fabrics and how matches now took the place of traditional flint stones for lighting the cooking fire outside. After a demonstration of how infants where brought up using the crib board and how they ground grain to make food we took a few photos and headed off towards the valley.

A few minutes on the highway and we entered into the park. It seemed a little different, this is because it is a park on Navajo land and not run by the National Park Service therefore we were not greeted by the usual uniformed park rangers and not handed the usual branded park material. Driving into the park the roads very quickly turn rough and the ride turns into more of an off road experience. Trying to take good photographs at this point becomes impossible!

As we drive down into Monument Valley we are faced with some of the most iconic and recognisable buttes that this area of America is famous for. It was definitely worth the journey from Las Vegas to see these. Giant towers of sandstone surround us as we descend into the valley and pullover at the first stopping point in front of the East Mitten and West Mitten buttes. Apart from the opportunity to take some spectacular photographs there are a number of stalls selling Navajo handmade jewellery. We don’t have time to look at the jewellery as we spend all our time taking photos and looking at the buttes. We continue on to the valley and pass Elephant butte, also Camel, Snoopy and Stagecoach - there are too many to list them all. The three sisters stand at the end of a long mesa running into the valley. Originally three rock towers of the same size, the middle tower eroded and broke in half. It is now known to the Navajo as the little sister, signalling renewal and rebirth.

We pulled up to another viewpoint near the three sisters where there was a Navajo posing on a horse at a particularly iconic rocky overhang. More jewellery was on sale and we bought a particularly nice piece for Van. It was a few dollars for a picture on the horse so I took the opportunity although I was not able to have a photo in the same spot, I was told "that’s my dad’s spot, it’ll cost extra".

Continuing around the valley we see totem pole, a tall rock tower carved by the wind. Navajo spiritual ceremonies are held around the totem pole at certain times of year and attract large numbers of the tribe. Driving out of the valley we pass another Hogan, this time it is used as the tomb of its departed owner as is the Navajo tradition.

After several hours of travelling we arrive back at page and there is time to quickly jump in the pool before our short trip to Horseshoe Bend in time for the sunset!

A short fifteen minute drive out of Page and a ten minute hike from the car park takes us to horseshoe bend. Horseshoe Bend is a dramatic tight bend in the Colorado River where the river and canyon turn back on themselves. At the canyon edge the ground drops one thousand feet to the river below. It’s a stunning spot and we take some great photos whilst waiting for what became a disappointingly cloudy sunset.

Returning to Page we share a BBQ platter on the terrace of the steak house opposite our hotel and watch the final stages of the sunset as it turns to night before turning in.
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