We took a quick walk around the town of Monticello, UT, before we departed for Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. I usually find something charming about these little places, but Monticello seemed to be just another town on the road to somewhere else. There was nothing that caught my senses particularly. Here are some pictures. This picture is of the sunrise and it was taken from behind our roadside motel.This is the front of our motel.Some of the locals were going for a morning run.A local Native American store.The Abajo mountains rise from the morning fog west of town.We were being careful about making sure that we did not run out of gas (petrol). So, we filled up even though we had used only a quarter tank of gas, turned east at the only traffic signal in Monticello, and pointed our way towards the rising sun on US 491 (not an Interstate Highway). We passed through the city of Cortez on our way to the entrance to Mesa Verde.
We arrived at Mesa Verde by about 9:30 and it was already too late for the ranger guided tour that we were interested in.The only slot available was for the 3:50pm tour, and that was too late for our drive to Monument Valley in the evening. We also realized that we had not given ourselves enough time to explore the place leisurely. So the visit was a little rushed.
The primary theme of this park is the history of the Pueblo Indians who have lived in this area for a very long period of time. You can see the ruins of their living spaces and communities spread out over the area, many of them under ledges in cliffs. But reaching the areas where you can see these artifacts also requires long drives on the park roads. The drives were actually quite thrilling over the mountain roads, some of them quite narrow and open only to smaller vehicles. Our first stop to see the historical artifacts was for the Step House at the end of the narrow Wetherill Mesa Road.It is was a long way down to get to the Step House from the parking area on top of the cliff.The cliff dwellings were usually under a ledge that provided some protection.You can see how far down one must go to reach the dwellings.We then headed back to the main park road to the Museum at the end of the road. Here are a couple of pictures. We were rushing. This is the Spruce Tree House,and this is the Cliff Palace.And before we knew it, it was time to head out of the park to Monument Valley, a drive of about three hours.This drive was notable for the fact that for the most part we were passing through land that was barely populated and was essentially featureless compared to what we had experienced so far. US 160 on which we were heading west ran straight for long periods of time. You could occasionally see the horizon in the distance at the end of a particularly long stretch of straight road. The speed limit on these smaller roads was 65 miles per hour, but folks were overtaking me every once in a while. We did make a stop at Four Corners, where the states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, all meet at a single point.The place is managed by the Navajo, and, frankly speaking, I got a rather poor impression of the way they maintained and operated things at a location that has now become a somewhat well recognized tourist attraction.
We arrived at Monument Park as the sun was setting. This horse had left its companions and wandered on to the side of the road as we were driving in.Here are some pictures of the sunset.We are staying at the only hotel here, The View, built on Navajo land, and owned by a Navajo entrepreneur lady. The first order of business was dinner at the only restaurant in this isolated place on the border of Utah and Arizona.
Our room has a beautiful view of the valley and the sunrise is expected to be spectacular. We will see. We head out to Page, AZ, later today.