Day 3 – John Wayne’s Stomping Ground

Posted: August 15, 2010 in 2010 summer trip
Tags: , , , , ,
Friday
July 23, 2010

We entered a different world it seems today.  Our drive took us from Gallup, New Mexico into the northeast corner of Arizona.  If you look on a map Monument Valley is listed in Arizona but their address lists it as Utah.  Who knows, maybe its both and they were allowed to choose.

We began our journey heading out Hwy 491 north from Gallup and then west on Hwy 264.  We originally planned to travel east around the mountain range and then come into Chinle, AZ from the north.  However on closer inspection we realized that part of the road was gravel and did not want to risk driving too far on bumpy terrain with the camper hitched on back.  There are several old ruins in this area and so we will have to plan to visit again and plan accordingly.

Andrew driving out of Gallup, NM

Andrew driving out of Gallup, NM

The route across the southern part of the range was very picturesque.  At the highest point you would think you were in Arkansas with all the tall trees and the soil and ground cover.  Then just as quickly as it appeared the trees began shrinking again as we made our way down the other side.

At Hwy 191 we headed north.  With each passing mile you begin to understand and form your own definition for the word desert and deserted.  The land all around the Hwy is Indian reservation and very remote.  We traveled an hour at one point without passing a man-made structure of any kind, which included another car.  Luckily we have a large gas tank and filled up prior to leaving Gallup.  You wouldn’t want to walk to the nearest station with your gas can in hand……could be a long and hot walk!

Road to monument valley

Road to monument valley

The further north we drove the larger the rock formation began to appear.    As soon as you hit Hwy 160 you can see the mammoth formations of Monument Valley.  They stood so majestic and we were awed by their beauty.  We tried capturing that beauty in shots but it is so hard to depict it in a picture that is so static when the beauty around is ever changing from sunshine, cloud, shadows and even the wind.  The mixture of colors, with the blues, reds, oranges, and greens is truly breathtaking.  This picture was very washed out but in a way captured the spiritual feeling of the area we thought.

Monument Valley in Background as we turned onto Hwy 161

Monument Valley in Background as we turned onto Hwy 161

You have to watch out for the cows and horses in the area though.  They are fenced in but they still seem to be able to find their way out onto the side of the road or even on the road.  I guess this mother and calf really thought the “grass was greener on the other side.”  Further back we came across another cow that must have thought the exact same thing but then thought better of it.  However getting back must not have been as easy as it had died caught up in the wire half in – half out.

cows next to road driving along Hwy 161 Arizona

cows next to road driving along Hwy 161 Arizona

Around 2pm we arrived at Goulding Campground.  The Campground was filled with rental RV’s by mostly foreigners.  There seemed to be a lot of french speaking (possibly Canadian) and Swiss.  The sites were very close together and not what we usually choose when we camp out but we were lucky and was placed in an end site.  We had a very large site with unobstructed views of Monument Valley in the horizon.  The Campground is in a beautiful setting, placed in between two majestic buttes for backdrops.

Our pop-up amongst all the RV's

Our pop-up amongst all the RV's

Sunrise at our site at Gouldings Campground in Monument Valley, UT

Sunrise at our site at Gouldings Campground in Monument Valley, UT

The campground itself is fully equipped with a small indoor pool, laundry facilities, restroom and showers (but word of caution that you need to end your day early enough so that you can be back in time to take one by 9pm as the showers are inside the office area and locked up between 9pm and 7am).  For those needing transportation through the park they provide paid tours as the RV cannot navigate the road inside Monument Valley we later realized.

Goulding Campground setting

Goulding Campground setting

Our view of Monument Valley from our campsite as the sun rose

Our view of Monument Valley from our campsite as the sun rose

We decided to drive through the valley that afternoon to catch the sun setting on the formations.  The entrance is directly across from where we stayed so you couldn’t get any closer than this.  The cost is only $5.00 per person!  We spent 4 hours driving and taking pictures.  At one point the sky turned pretty dark and threatened to open up on us but then decided against it and moved on without a drop falling.

Storms brewing in the background at Monument Valley, UT

Storms brewing in the background at Monument Valley, UT

We found out that this is also the backdrop for most of the John Wayne movies.  But beyond commercialism, Monument Valley is one of those wonderful places where you can lose yourself in the moment (or possibly longer), especially if you allow yourself to just stop and take in the views when no one else is around.  It has a story to tell if you listen and look very carefully.  It is easy to imagine the Indians roaming the terrain and you can begin to understand why the land and structures hold significant value to them that goes beyond the monetary.

Taken as we enter Monument Valley...Here we had Picture in Picture reception!

Taken as we enter Monument Valley...Here we had Picture in Picture reception!

drive down monument valley with East and West Mitten Buttes in background

Andrew photographing the valley
Andrew photographing the valley

East Mitten (West Mitten is almost a mirror image of this formation!)

Andrew and Shyla

Andrew and Shyla

Sharon overlooking the valley below

Sharon overlooking the valley below

Monument Valley July 2010

Monument Valley July 2010

That night was a full moon and so we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the buttes back-lit with the moon.  We also found ourselves providing shelter for three stray pups  that decided that under one of the pull-out beds would be an excellent place to camp out.  They reminded of “Lady and the Tramp” as two were about the same age but different breeds and the third was definitely from a different litter…just a small pudgy black and white pup probably only a couple of months old….yet all three seemed to have found each other and formed their pack.  Maybe because Shyla was with us that they sensed that we would be dog friendly.

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Comments
  1. Bev &Barry says:

    Wow…what an amazing place. Fantastic photos and the colour is amazingly beautiful. I love the wide open spaces which dwarf those huge rock formations. Sharon, you look like an Inidian squaw surveying her domain from that overhanging rock. Great shots of Andrew.. forget what he looks like and first time I have seen his beard. Very rugged and handsome look! Your unique rig looks very good – wouldn’t worry about those RVs…a dime a dozen! Thanks so much for sharing your trip like this!

  2. Catherine says:

    WHat happened to my brother??!! I think i actually like the beard, its nice and manicured unlike last time when you looked like a terrorist!
    Still making my way through the photos but it looks as though you had a wonderful time.. im jelous…

    • triptracker says:

      He keeps the beard reluctantly for me…..but in exchange I have to make sure it is trimmed weekly for him to keep it short and neat. I have never been a beard person before but when Andrew wears it short….I think it really suits his face.

  3. Doug Harley says:

    Wonderful pictures. I lived in the 4 corners area(Farmington,New Mexico) 50 years ago . My wife & I crossed your trip close to the same time in late August and rode the Durango & Silverton on Monday the 26th. We had an English couple on our train car and exchanged emails with them.

    • triptracker says:

      This was by far the best trip we have taken. We loved having so much time together and being able to truly experience our surroundings without the looming thought of ending it. It seems such a small world when you find someone else experiencing your same experiences. We met a father and son on the train in Durango and then later saw them again with the rest of his family when we visited the Mesa Verde Park. That we would decided the same train and the same park at the same time……

  4. Wonderful. I hope we also have like that in the Philippines :)))

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