About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

Arizona Chapter 6: Monument Valley & Canyon de Chelly

Tuesday, July 19th
So last night I got my blog 100% up-to-date, and out of nowhere I somehow lost a week's worth of entries!  Ugh.  So this morning I went back to McDonald's and retyped them, then I went to the library and uploaded some photos onto the blog, which took me 'til about 2:30pm to complete (so much for speedy internet there - wasn't good yesterday or today).  I felt SO FREE getting it all done - it's the worst part of my trip, feeling stuck in a place until I get my "chores done."  I just want to play!

At about 3pm I reached nearby Horseshoe Bend, "a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River, reached via a 3/4-mile hike through thick sand (totally worth it).  Mid-afternoon provided much better lighting conditions for photography than last time when I went at sunset.  This time I could actually see the beautiful, bright green color of the water.  I explored the rim and climbed around the ledges and whatnot for different viewpoint.  I picked up a few memory cards in Page, then finally got the hell outta dodge!

On the Way to Monument Valley

Oh, I almost forgot, before I went to the library it was time for lunch.  I went to the Chinese "Gourmet" Buffet, grabbed a plate, saw they had only two islands of food, all of which only one dish was vegetarian-friendly.  I looked down at the little group of noodles on my near empty plate and knew there was no way I would get my money's worth eating here, so I politely explained the situation to the stern-looking lady (probably the co-owner with her husband standing nearby) and let her know I would be going, and to my surprise she told me no, I couldn't leave without paying for the buffet, of which not one scrap had yet touched my mouth!  I repeated that I was leaving and grabbed my things from my table and headed for the door, turning around to shake my finger at them, as they should have been ashamed of themselves.  Unbelievable.  How can people be so greedy and cold?  Like in Sedona when I asked the lady at a motel close to Slide Rock Park if I could park my car in their huge lot that was nearly empty, because the parking lot at the state park was all full.  She said "No, sorry."  How can a person like that live with themselves everyday?  Does it give them some kind of power-high to refuse someone a simple kindness?

The Most Beautiful View I've Seen from my Tent

Anyway, after Horseshoe Bend I drove a couple hours east to Monument Valley (witnessed a dog herding sheep right in the ditch of the road a couple miles from the entrance - cool!) in Navajo Nation Tribal Park, where for $10 I pitched my tent in their primitive, dispersed camping ground - on the most AMAZING spot, perched on a ledge overlooking a perfect, unobstructed view of the "world-famous" Mittens and Merrick Butte formations.  I was overwhelmed by these massive, solitary rock formations that are still left standing after 50 million years of erosion.  It was absolutely beautiful and without a doubt the most breath-taking place I've ever set up a tent.  Basically you get to camp on a scenic vista overlooking what may be considered the most "landmark" formations in the park!  By sundown the the ledge behind me was full of tents.   Their are no designated sites, so people can set up camp wherever they wish, but most did so within about 20 feet of their vehicles.  I couldn't possibly help but snatch up the spectacular spot I got, and was totally worth the couple of trips I made, hauling my essentials from the car.   Once finished setting up, I kicked back in my camping chair and soaked up the view, as nightfall descended on the valley floor.

Hear: Crickets and lots of noisy, French tourists
Smell: A campfire from the people upwind of me
Feel: A cool, gentle wind
Taste: My dinner of baby clams and red wine
See: A shooting star!  Lightning on all sides of me, in the distance.  The orange moon ascending from behind East Mitten Butte.

I love this place.  There's a peaceful solitude about it.  I may make it a late night!  I can always sleep in tomorrow :)

A View from "North Window" Overlook

Wednesday, July 20th
This morning I went to the Visitor Center to get cleaned up, and was surprised to find a wonderful little museum of Navajo artifacts, jewelry and dress, as well as a sizable gift shop.  Then I hit the road, "Valley Road" to be exact, for the 17-mile scenic loop drive down the rough, dirt road, for up-close views of these monoliths, some towering as high as 1,000 feet, with numbered posts for names like Totem Pole and Three Sisters.  Before leaving the park, I checked out the "male-style Navajo hogans, with stoves made from 55 gallon drums."

Monument Valley PROS:  Cheap camping with unparalleled views, and a spectacular scenic drive.  I said "WOW" a LOT.
CONS:  
~ The locals come right up to peoples' tents to solicit their wares and try to sell needless, overpriced tours.
~ The endless hoards of tour drivers tear through the rough road at obnoxious speeds, with a move-it-or-lose-it mentality.  

I grabbed a shower at Goulding's Campground about 6 miles away, before taking the two-hour drive to the beat up, eye-blink town of Chinle (where I saw cattle grazing right next the shoulder of the the main highway - neato!), arriving at Canyon de Chelly National Monument at 4pm.  

First Overlook in Canyon de Chelly, North Rim Drive

"Canyon de Chelly preserves spectacular ruins of the early indigenous tribes that lived in the area, and reflects one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America.  Canyon de Chelly also sustains a living community of Navajo people, who are connected to a landscape of great historical and spiritual significance. Canyon de Chelly is unique among National Park service units, as it is comprised entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land that remains home to the canyon community. NPS works in partnership with the Navajo Nation to manage park resources and sustain the living Navajo community."

"Most park visitors arrive by automobile and view Canyon de Chelly from the rim, following both North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive. Ancient ruins and geologic structures are visible, but in the distance, from turnoffs on each of these routes.  Access to the canyon floor is restricted, and visitors are allowed to travel in the canyons only when accompanied by a park ranger or an authorized Navajo guide.  The only exception to this rule is the White House Ruin Trail."

With no entrance fee and a peek at the free campground (Yes, really!) I got a map at the visitor center and hit the ground driving with enthusiasm.  Of the two, thirty-mile (round-trip) drives through the monument, I opted for North Rim Drive first, stopping at Antelope House (talk about starting off the experience with a bang, wow!), Mummy Cave (another jaw-dropper!) and Massacre Cave overlooks.

Thunder started roaring and I could see huge bolts of lightning in the distance; lucky for me, I was finished with the overlooks before it started raining cats and dogs.  The storm apparently hadn't made it to the campground.  I set up my tent while fending off the biggest population of ants I think I've ever seen in my life - certainly the biggest I've ever seen at any campground.  Is this why it's free?  Lol.

"Antelope House"

After some seriously slow (11 Mbps! - but complimentary thanks to the generous fellow at the front desk) internet at nearby Holiday Inn, I got back to the campground at Canyon de Chelly around 10pm, to find a huge RV parked in my space.  Are you kidding me?  Could they not see my bright red tent sitting directly in front of it?!  I approached the door of the RV to find an able, elderly woman, with a smile on her face saying she knew what I was there for.  She told me someone had taken their space, so they took me mine, and she said they were getting ready for bed and asked if there was a problem.  I laughed, and said "Well yeah, I'd like to park in my space, but I suppose (because you're old and I'm kind) I can park in the big space next door (that you apparently liked less than mine)."  This is a reminder many people don't operate on logic or even common sense, for it would suggest that if someone did something I didn't like (i.e. taking my parking space) I wouldn't then turn around and do the exact same thing to someone else.  This was a reminder that for many, consideration and wisdom does not come with age. 

Thursday, July 21st
This morning I packed up the tent and took South Rim Drive to the Seven overlooks: Tunnel, Tsegi, Junction, White House (and I did the 2.5-mile round-trip hike down to the canyon floor for a much closer view; the only hike in the monument that can be taken without permit and Navajo guide), Sliding House, Face Rock and Spider Rock (how they came up with the names for the last two I have no idea; they didn't look like faces or spiders to me or the other people).  I conclude that North Rim Drive has more spectacular ruins; South Rim is a good introduction to North Rim.  Antelope House in my opinion is no doubt the most impressive jewel in the park, and certainly worth the drive.

"White House" Ruins

Canyon de Chelly PROS
~A wonderful glimpse into living history - the land and dwellings of an early people who occupied the area as early as A.D. 300, and the lifestyles of their descendents, still living on and working the lands to this day!
~Free entry and campground!
CONS:
~ Unless you hike down to the White House Ruin, you can see the dwellings only from a distant, bird's-eye view.  My binoculars were priceless!
~ Locals desperately peddling their wares at every overlook.

I took to Highway 191 S to Interstate 40 W; arriving at Meteor Crater just a few hours later.  With the highway speed limit at 65 mph and the interstate at 75 mph, it seemed lightning-fast!

Photo Albums
 

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