Sunday, February 17, 2019

Monument Valley - May 2018

We had a long weekend and decided to explore a place I''d wanted to go for a long time - Monument Valley! For real, UT and AZ have the best places to explore on a road trip. This was a really good one (though with a couple mishaps). It's quite a long drive to get here, and since Anthony worked Friday, we left on Saturday morning.

We drove though Moab and then kept heading south towards the Arizona border.

There it is! We stopped at the place where everyone takes photos of the famous view, but it was really windy, crowded, and not really all that safe to stand in the middle of the road! I opted to stand on the side of the road in safety.

First thing we did was to tour the sites. This is part of the Navajo Nation, and they manage the entrance. You can opt for a guided tour, which takes you a bit more off road. To do this otherwise, you need a backcountry permit. We just opted for the self-guided tour - paid an admission fee to enter the 11ish-mile drive. There are some areas you can walk around, but you need to stay on trails and avoid trespassing. It's a dirt road around the whole park with some very rough parts, so take a good vehicle! On the way out you have to drive up quite a hill, and it was very sandy and dusty, and some cars were getting stuck. We had to gun it and maneuver all the way up, and luckily we got out. But there was a huge line of cars waiting, because so many people were getting stuck.

The mittens.

When researching campsites in the area, I didn't find great options online. More seemed available once we got to the area and were driving around, but I'd already landed on Goulding's and made a reservation. I prefer a few more amenities than Anthony needs, so I booked this solid spot. They have toilets, showers, a store, indoor swimming pool and pretty much anything else you need. You can stay closer to the actually park area in a hotel or campsite, but this was cheaper and really solid. I'd stay here again.

It was also very, very windy, and I'm glad we didn't all blow away overnight!

Day 2 - breakfast! We planned to go to Canyon de Chelly this day, but....

Once we started driving and stopped for gas in Kayenta, we noticed a bit of a crack in our tire. Not good. This area is mostly full of not so great roads, or unexpected dirt roads, no cell service and very few towns/gas stations. We didn't know what it would be like if we stuck to our plan, since we had about 1.5 more hours to drive, so we started to look for tire shops. Not much open on Sunday morning in Navajo Nation. We found one tire stop about 9 miles away, so we started driving.

It ended up being a trailer in the middle of nowhere with a lot of junk in it. And we were so confused - another truck with two guys pulled up right after us, but even with Anthony knocked on the door, no one came out for a long time. And we asked the other guys if they knew what was up, but we couldn't really get an answer.

We were there for hours - seriously. Eventually someone came out of the house to help us after two women drove up, and I think one of them was married to a guy inside, but they were in a fight. So the guy comes to help us, but is not the main fixit guy, and he doesn't really have the right equipment nor a tire in the right size, which we find out at the end of waiting there for hours. Ugh. I was about to lose it.

We decided to drive another couple hours very slowly towards Page, AZ to a Walmart with a tire center. Or at least we assumed they would have a tire center because we didn't really have cell service. The next closest one was in Colorado.
We spent another couple hours here, but thankfully they had the right tire. Just not a ton of people working and a bit of a line. We killed time at Taco Bell across the street. Horseshoe Bend is right there and worth seeing, so we made the best of it and at least saw something that day.

I'd been here once a few years ago, and I was about the only one around. Not so much this time. I also forgot how you can just get right up to the edge! I wonder how many people fall off every year.

I was in such a bad mood. And still wondering if we could rush to Canyon de Chelly. Because the next day I wanted to do Four Corners and one or two other things in the area. My Google Maps for this part of the world has so many starred places to visit!

We could've also seen Antelope Canyon here, but it was crowded and busy, so we just went back to camp with a new tire.

Monday - finally off to Canyon de Chelly. Another place I have always wanted to go, especially after reading Sing Down the Moon when I was a kid. Again, here you can do a self tour driving the north and south roads and stopping at various points (free!). Or you can do a guided tour that takes you down to the valley floor, where people still live and work. I'd love to come back and do that.

Many old dwellings are still here. It's amazing.

This is Spider Rock and it was magnificent. I couldn't stop staring at this whole area. It's amazing.

 I'm so glad I finally made it here.

And there is so, so much to see in this Four Corners area. I could spend a month down here driving around.

This is at Mule Canyon Ruin - we pulled over when we saw it. It's a small Anasazi village.

Anthony spotted some other ruins from the road, so we had to find a spot to turn around and go back - tough on a narrow highway that's going uphill! He scampered about through the tall grass and up a mountainside to find these other ruins.

There's some really cool stuff down there, and sadly a bunch of people want to tear it up and mine it.
Since we didn't want to drive the whole way back in one day, we drove part way home to stop at Bears Ears and camp. We were just kind of winging it, and we still didn't really have cell service, so we just camped wherever. It's mostly BLM land, so you can do that. But there's the view of both the ears below. We ended up driving back behind them to camp.  

It was a bit of a sketchy road, but my goodness, what magic we found! The light was just amazing.

Deer everywhere.

We set up camp under this tree, absolutely no one around. And as the sun went down, dozens of deer came out from all directions and gathered at a spot just down the road for water. It was incredible to watch them all.

And the moon rising!

I kinda get a little freaked out being in the middle of nowhere with no one around and no idea what lurks in the dark, but it was an incredible night in nature. 

Survived til morning. 

We were really close to Natural Bridges, so I wanted to swing by there for a quick tour on the way home.

More dwellings there.

It's a 10ish mile loop that you drive, with some sides hikes at each viewpoint. Not a lot of time needed here, but I'm glad we stopped by. Anthony wasn't so happy about it, since he was eager to get home, but whatever.

Such a great trip in the American Southwest - I love that I get to explore it. So much more to see in this area too!

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