Monument Valley

Aug 2006

Southern Utah is full of national parks, state parks and other attractions.  Most are worth seeing but if you can only see one, make it Monument Valley.  You can drive through part of the Valley if you don't care about the condition of your vehicle when you come out.  But to see the good stuff, you have to take the guided tour.  When I inquired about the tour, I was told that one had left about five minutes before but we could catch up to them before they got very far.  I got into the back of a pickup truck and we set out to catch up to the tour bus.  We caught up to them in about three miles.  In my long and somewhat checkered past I have been on many exciting rides in cars, trucks, airplanes, and roller coasters.  But I have never experienced one like those three miles.  The goat path they call a "road" is passable only if speed is held to 10 MPH or less.  We had to have been traveling three or four times that fast, mostly airborne.  If you should take this tour and are offered the same service, I strongly recommend that you wait for the next tour to start.




Millions of people have seen this scene though only a few of them have been to Monument Valley.  Almost every Western movie ever made has at least one scene showing this or a similar view of the Valley.  It was a favorite of John Ford, one of the most famous, and most prolific, Hollywood producer/directors.  Even movies shot entirely on a sound stage would have one of these scenes in the background.





This butte is called The Hand for obvious reasons.  This formation is unusual in that you might actually figure out its name without being told.




This arch has a name but I forgot what it is.  The guides seem to think it is very important because it can be viewed through this tree.  There is actually an "X" scratched in the rock to mark the spot this picture was taken from.






This rock formation is called The Dragon.  This is one of those that you have to be told about first before you can see it.  The problem we had on the tour I was on concerned the man in the lower right corner of the picture.  He, his wife, and his young son were the only others, besides myself, on the tour.  They were from Italy and spoke very little English.  The word "dragon" was not in his very limited English vocabulary.  The guide and I tried to explain in words he could understand but I don't think we were very successful.  The best we could do was "like a big lizard that never lived".  Would you have understood that description?




This thing that looks like half of a sink-hole is called The Hogan, probably for its beehive shape.  The guide told us that the snake pit scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed here.  It could even be true.  I climbed up to it and from inside it looks very much like the movie scene.

By the way, the white stuff in the foreground is sand. 






These ruins show that people lived here about 1200 years ago.  The land may have been quite different then.  It is certainly in the low rent district now.





This is a petroglyph from the same period.  Nothing much has changed in 1200 years.  Teenagers are still writing graffiti on any available wall.





Standing water in the desert is a rare sight.  It came from a five-inch rainfall the night before.  This picture was taken just after noon.  The guide said it would be gone by sundown.

Monument Valley is a fantastic place.  If you are anyplace west of the Mississippi, it is well worth your effort to go see it.  Actually, from any place in the world, it is worth the effort to see it.