Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 8 (Monument Valley to Page, AZ)

Strictly speaking, the title of the blog is not correct since we have wandered into Arizona for a day or two, but we will be back in Utah soon enough!

The View, the hotel that we stayed at for the night is just a few years old.  It is a very comfortable but somewhat expensive place, and it is the only full-scale hotel at Monument Valley that offers views at sunrise and sunset from the comfort of your room.  So, without much ado, here are pictures of the sunrise.  (Click on the first picture below to start viewing all of them in full size.)

 

There are three buttes in front of the hotel called the three mittens.  They are probably the most photographed objects in this area.

The light from rising sun comes right into the hotel rooms.  You can watch the sky changing from the comfort of the balcony of your room with a cup of coffee in your hand.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had considered going for a hike around the western mitten that morning, but decided that the 1000 foot drop-off to the valley floor, and the climb during the return, would be too much.  So we took it easy, and departed the place after a little bit of shopping in the local Native American store.  There is actually is more to do in Monument Valley.  You can take tours with Navajo guides further into their land.  You can walk in their sacred places.  But we had to move on..

Instead of heading west on US 163, we took at detour and turned east and drove further into the valley to get  to the scenic viewpoints. We drove up to a place called Mexican Hat where the road crosses the San Juan River, a tributary of the Colorado river.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a motel right along the river.  Apparently you can also stay in a yurt at this facility.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt this point we turned around and headed back west on the highway. On the way you can see places like this where the locals try to make some money off the tourists selling trinkets.  This particular spot looked abandoned.  It looks like a hard life.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at the spot that is well known to the tourists for taking pictures of Monument valley.  This was the scene.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was the spot at which Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run in the movie.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we got out of our car at one of the pullouts for taking pictures, we heard an older Indian woman greet us cheerfully from  a rise next to the pullout.  She had a table set up under a protective covering for selling things.  We felt a need to go up to her to meet her and chat, and to see what she was offering.  She was a very kindly person and talked freely about herself and the Navajo people, while also talking about the trinkets that she had made that she was selling.  Each trinkets was designed with a certain theme in mind, for example, she had some that were meant for healing.  All of the trinkets were made of local stones.  We did not bother to bargain.  That was not the spirit of the moment.

This was the last picture I took from the lookout point before we continued west on US 163.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we reached the town of Kayente,  we turned on to US 160 and joined the heavier traffic headed towards Tuba City.  There was a lot of overtaking going on on this road.  The RVs were actually slowing down the other traffic.  I was still nervous about going into the opposite lanes at speeds exceeding 70 miles an hour, but I still did it on one or two occasions.

We turned on to a local road going through Navajo territory numbered route 98 after a short ride on route 160.  This was the shortest way to Page, AZ.  The speed limit was still 65 miles per hour on this less used winding road that made its way through the shallow hills and dales of the countryside. You could see the horses wandering in the fields.  There were few trees around.  The scenery was beginning to change.  The colors of the countryside were lighter.

As we got closer to Page, we saw signs for tours of North Antelope slot canyon.  This was one of the things on my to-do list.  There were a lot of tourists there for the tours.  The person at the ticket counter said that he had spots for the 12.45pm tour when my watch was saying that it was close to 1:30pm. Turns out that the time zones are slightly different on Navajo land.  We had a few minutes to get ourselves ready for the tour after the long car ride.  We needed to put something in our stomachs and use the port-a-potties before we proceeded.

Our guide was Bernice.  She took us in her pickup truck to the entrance for the slot canyon, about three miles away from the road.  The drive was over a sandy wash.  This place is full of water when it rains heavily and there are flash floods.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Here are some pictures from the canyon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you come here during the summer months in the middle of a sunny day, you can see a shaft of light come into the canyon and hit the canyon floor.  That must be so cool to see.  These places can become dangerous when there is flash flooding.  There are seasons for the rains.  It seems that it had rained recently.

This tour lasted about an hour and a half.  It would have been nice to see the place with less of a crowd around, but that is the way it goes. We might look for more slot canyons in the parks that we will be going to. Bernice was a great guide.  The guides know the best locations in the canyon to take pictures, and can make up stories about what the formations and the light patterns you are looking at look like.  We were shown a bear, a heart, and even the faces of a couple of presidents!  Bernice was really good at taking pictures for other people with their cameras.

We had a short distance to cover from the canyon to Page.  We went straight to the hotel and checked in.  It turned out to be a brand new facility just outside the main section of town.  It was time to look at a local map and figure out what there was to do in town.  The town of Page came into being in 1957 with the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam.  It looks like the place is still developing.  There are lots of outdoor things to do in this area, but not much in Page itself.

We went to the site of the Glen Canyon Dam and walked around, crossing the bridge across the canyon on foot.  The dam was built on the Colorado river.  Lake Powell was formed behind the dam.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then took a short walk on the Hanging Garden Trail close by.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was not much of a hanging garden to see.  We wandered off trail on the colorful rocks and on to the sand.  It looked like this was what a lot of other visitors were also doing.

We drove into the heart of Page for an early dinner.  We ended up at the Dam Bar and Grille, a popular local watering hole.  We shared a large pizza and had a couple of beers.  We have some leftover pizza for lunch.  So far in the trip, dinner has been the only meal that we have been going to a restaurant for.  Breakfast is usually in the hotel – the free breakfast or pastries in our room.  Lunch usually consists of trail mix, peanut butter and fruit, and maybe a granola bar.  We have a good dinner!

Our plan for today is to go to the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon and hike.  Looks like the weather will hold up.  And then it is on to Kenab in Utah.  I have a feeling we will be getting away from the more “touristy” things we have been doing the last few days and getting back to nature.

 

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 7 (Mesa Verde NP to Monument Valley)

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the front of our motel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of the locals were going for a morning run.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA local Native American store.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Abajo mountains rise from the morning fog west of town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is was a long way down to get to the Step House from the parking area on top of the cliff.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cliff dwellings were usually under a ledge that provided some protection.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see how far down one must go to reach the dwellings.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe 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,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand this is the Cliff Palace.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd before we knew it, it was time to head out of the park to Monument Valley, a drive of about three hours.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are some pictures of the sunset.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe 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.