Mon­u­ment Val­ley in Win­ter

Snowbirds & RV Travelers - - Arizona - STORY & PHOTOS BY DEN­NIS BE­GIN

Our first des­ti­na­tion, in late Fe­bru­ary, was the Red Rock Coun­try of Se­dona, Ari­zona. We were treated to per­fect spring weather, get­ting in some hik­ing, sight­see­ing and won­der­ing why oth­ers had mis­led us. Se­dona is prob­a­bly one of the most beau­ti­ful places in the United States, but it is also in close prox­im­ity to other tourist sites such as Jerome, Fort Verde, the Verde Canyon Rail­road and Mon­tezuma’s Cas­tle. Our goal, how­ever, was fur­ther north to Mon­u­ment Val­ley, lo­cated in the north­east cor­ner of Ari­zona. We won­dered about our san­ity as we passed through Flagstaff, Ari­zona, at 2100 m (7000 ft) — it felt like a Cana­dian prairie win­ter.

Turn­ing our mo­torhome north on US-89, a lit­tle snow was not go­ing to de­ter us. By the time we reached the Cameron Trad­ing Post, the el­e­va­tion dropped to 1200 m (4200 ft) and spring re­turned. The Cameron Trad­ing Post is a must visit. Es­tab­lished in 1916, on the Lit­tle Colorado River, this mod­ern First Nations Trad­ing Post is one of the best stocked stores any­where. The slo­gan of the store should be “……if we do not have it, you do not need it”.

Back on the high­way, we turned onto US-160 to­wards Tuba, Ari­zona. You pass through the north­ern end of the Painted Desert, with its red­dish-pur­ple coloured land­scape. Just eight km (five mi) from Tuba, we vis­ited the Tuba Di­nosaur site, called ‘Moen-avi’ by the Navajo or Dine In­di­ans. Al­though Moen-avi is clas­si­fied as a mi­nor Juras­sic ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­ery, the foot­prints, rib cage, par­tial head and di­nosaur eggs are over 200 mil­lion years old. The lo­cal Navajo pro­vide a guided tour for a small fee. It was very cool to walk among the di­nosaurs!

Af­ter ar­riv­ing in Kayenta, Ari­zona, Mon­u­ment Val­ley was only about 40 kilo­me­tres north­east along US-163. Mon­u­ment Val­ley is not a Na­tional Park, but a work­ing First Nations reser­va­tion called Mon­u­ment Val­ley Navajo Tribal Park. Nearly one thou­sand Navajo live on the reser­va­tion and make their liv­ing from sheep ranch­ing and tourism.

Our des­ti­na­tion was the Vil­lage of Gould­ing, Utah. Orig­i­nally Gould­ing was a trad­ing post, opened in 1924 by Leone (he called her Mike) and Harry Gould­ing. To­day the trad­ing post has grown into a lit­tle vil­lage, with a gro­cery store, ho­tel, restau­rants, re­tail stores, theater, church, school, med­i­cal cen­ter and a land­ing strip. The Gould­ing RV Park, sit­u­ated in the Big Rock Door be­hind the vil­lage, has ex­cel­lent fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing ca­ble, in­ter­net, laun­dry and a store.

If a full ser­vice park is not needed, there is dry camp­ing at Mit­ten View Camp­grounds with a mil­lion dol­lar view. Other ac­com­mo­da­tions in­clude the View Ho­tel and the Mon­u­ment Val­ley Tipi Vil­lage. The View Ho­tel has front row seats to the two giant mono­liths called West and East Mit­tens. Ac­cord­ing to Navajo mythol­ogy, the mit­tens (gloves) were left on the val­ley floor, wait­ing for the Gods to re­turn.

De­spite the name, Mon­u­ment Val­ley is not a val­ley, but an out­crop­ping of sed­i­men­tary rock, dat­ing back 200 mil­lion years. The val­ley floor is the Colorado Plateau, dot­ted with 300m (1000 ft) mono­liths, buttes, mesas and arches called ‘mon­u­ments’. The rock is largely sand­stone, coloured in red-ox­ide and shaped by wind, frost and ex­treme heat. The blue-gray sub­stance on the rock is man­ganese ox­ide while the val­ley floor is cov­ered in red silt­stone. The mon­u­ments, sub­ject to nat­u­ral ero­sion, have been chis­eled into dif­fer­ent shapes over time. Many of the mon­u­ments look like an­i­mals, bear­ing names like Ea­gle Rock, Set­ting Hen, Ele­phant and Bear

and Rab­bit. Other mon­u­ments have cre­ative names such as Stage­coach, Sad­dle­back, The King

on His Throne and The Big In­dian. The Navajo of course have their own names for the mon­u­ments. It was the an­cient Anasazi or Pue­blo In­di­ans who called Mon­u­ment Val­ley, ‘Tse Bii Ndzis­gaii’, or the ‘Val­ley Be­tween the Rocks’. They got it right.

There are sev­eral ways to view the park. One is to re­main on US-163 from Gould­ing to Mex­i­can Hat, Utah, a dis­tance of about 37 km (23 miles), but you will miss half of the mon­u­ments. The mon­u­ments are equally divided by the bor­der of the two states. The sec­ond method, for a small fee, is to use your own car and drive to John Ford’s Point, but the 27 km (17 mile) loop road is very bumpy and dusty. There are also some re­stric­tions on where you can drive. The third best method is to take a truck/jeep tour, cost­ing around $70 USD. We se­lected the Gould­ing Truck Tour. A Navajo guide pro­vides in­for­ma­tion on his­tory, ge­ol­ogy, mythol­ogy and facts about the park and peo­ple. Stops at var­i­ous Ho­gans (mud and wood cer­e­mo­nial struc­tures) are built into the tour with Navajo women il­lus­trat­ing tra­di­tional weav­ing of bas­kets and blan­kets. Also along the route are nu­mer­ous ar­ti­sans and ven­dors, sell­ing crafts, vin­tage jew­elry and sou­venirs. The best part was that we didn’t have to drive.

John Ford’s Point, near the base of the Three Sis­ters (Nuns), is a ma­jor tourist at­trac­tion. John Ford was a le­gendary film di­rec­tor who used John Wayne in five west­ern movies, all filmed in Mon­u­ment Val­ley. Some of the clas­sic films were Stage­coach, She Wore a Yel­low Rib­bon and The Searchers. Check out the small John Wayne Mu­seum and the free John Wayne movie ev­ery night. Ac­tor John Wayne best said it, “Mon­u­ment Val­ley is the place where God put the West”.

Mon­u­ment Val­ley has been the back­drop for many other movies, such as The Eiger Sanc­tion,

How the West Was Won and Back to the Fu­ture, Part 3. Prob­a­bly the most pop­u­lar movie was

For­rest Gump. In the movie, For­rest stopped run­ning at Mile 13, which is lo­cated on US-163, on the way to Mex­i­can Hat, Utah.

Af­ter nearly a week it was time to leave. Al­though we had not seen the en­tire park, we had also ven­tured fur­ther north to visit the Val­ley of the Gods and Goose­neck State Park. It was now time to head west and pay an­other visit to the Grand Canyon. In our opin­ion, the most beau­ti­ful part of Ari­zona is found in the north and a lit­tle snow only adds to the beauty. Give your­self a lit­tle push and leave your com­fort zone in the south.

View of sun­set on King on His Throne, Stage­coach, Bear and Rab­bit and Cas­tle Rock.

North Win­dow View, in­clud­ing Cly Butte, East Mit­ten, CastlenR­dock, Bear and Rab­bit.

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