Monument Valley

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, or Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii (valley of the rocks), straddles the Arizona-Utah border and is familiar to anyone who has seen a John Ford western. Among the many he filmed there are Stagecoach (1939), My Darling Clementine (1946), Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), and The Searchers (1956). In fact, as a lover of westerns, Monument Valley is the main reason I wanted to extend this road trip to take in the entire Grand Circle, even though The Boys flew back to New York from Moab.

The valley is accessible by private vehicle, but there are parts that are off-limits if you are not on a guided tour, so I opted for one organized by Goulding’s Lodge & Trading Post, which, until The View finally opened shortly after my trip, was the only place you could stay in the immediate vicinity of the park.

Sentinel Mesa, West Mitten Butte, Big Indian, Merrick Butte, and Castle Rock from John Ford Point
Sentinel Mesa, West Mitten Butte, Big Indian, Merrick Butte, and Castle Rock from John Ford Point
A quiet moment at John Ford Point
A quiet moment at John Ford Point
Elephant Butte
Elephant Butte
Totem Pole
Totem Pole

In any case, it was a good thing I didn’t drive myself within the park, as the road (and dust) was probably worse than that on the worst African safari ever. But it was worth it to finally see all these iconic formations for myself.

"Our Lady of the Mitten"
“Our Lady of the Mitten”

Unfortunately, I ran out of film at the end of the tour just at sunset.*
I decided to wait to buy more until I was on the road again and then kicked myself when I realized that the sunrise view of the valley from my room at Goulding’s was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.



*Note: This trip was back in the days of my much-loved Pentax K1000. As such, most of the pictures in this Grand Circle series are scans of my printed photos.

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