Monument Valley – Southwest USA Road Trip (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Southwest USA Road Trip 2012

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.  

In October 2012, Ken and I took a two week road trip around the Southwestern United States.  We flew to Albuquerque, NM and then drove from Albuquerque, New Mexico >Canyon de Chelly, Arizona > Moab, Utah > Monument Valley, Utah > Lake Powell, Arizona > Grand Canyon (South Rim).

This post covers our fourth stop, Monument Valley!

Following our time in Moab, Utah, we drove south to Monument Valley. We had booked a room at one of the two hotels available, called TheView. And my GOODNESS did it live up to its name!

The drive from Moab to Monument Valley was spectacular. In fact, it is the same route, U.S. Highway 163, that is the set for many films. (It’s where Forrest Gump ended his three year run!)

Viewing Monument Valley from Road View of Monument Valley from the Highway

Once we arrived, we settled into our hotel, and enjoyed the stunning views from our hotel balcony.

View of Monument Valley from our Hotel Room at The View Hotel
We walked around the grounds, and ate at the hotel (I really don’t think there were any restaurants within a reasonable driving distance other than the hotel.)

So, I think this is a good time to bring up an odd observation from our Southwest USA Road Trip: A complete lack of Americans. Seriously, no joke. After Albuquerque, the vast majority of folks we encountered were Germans, followed by some Brits. You’d think we were in Germany for all the German language we heard on the trip. Americans weren’t a majority again until the Grand Canyon.

While we were standing in line waiting for a table for dinner at TheView, an older British couple was standing behind us. In her cute British accent, the woman asked us, “Excuse me, are you AMERICANS??” We replied with a chuckle, and a “Yep! Definitely!” She said, “Can you tell us where are all the OTHER Americans? We’ve been in this region touring for more than a week, and all we’ve seen are Germans and other Brits!” We were all like, “Yep! Concur! And we have no idea!”

We speculated on a couple of reasons … Like the fact that it was October and most kids were in school. But that wouldn’t explain why Americans with no children or grown children weren’t traveling. And we also speculated that these were such remote areas for Americans to reach. Really, we were just grasping for reasons, but had no idea why there were hardly any Americans in the area.

On our next stop, the Lake Powell / Page, AZ area (which I’ll talk about in the next post in this series), a Navajo guide said that 70% of their business comes from non-Americans. We were flabbergasted.

Anyway, end the odd observation story.

As the evening progressed, dark clouds started rolling in. It was October, and our guide in Canyon de Chelly had mentioned that this area had not had any rain since July. Yikes! And we were about to be there for the first rain in three months!.

Ken on TheView hotel grounds TheView Hotel in Monument Valley

I just really hoped that the weather would clear up by the morning, because the sunrise in Monument Valley was supposed to be spectacularly beautiful.  

Around 3:30 in the morning, Ken and I were both awakened (woken up?) by tremendous thunder outside. I was having trouble falling back asleep, and decided to see what I could capture with my camera. After fumbling with my tripod in the middle of the night and taking about 150 uselessly black photographs, I managed to capture these shots.

Lightning Storm in Monument Valley Lightning strikes in Monument Valley Storms and Lightning in Monument Valley, Utah

The storms moved through the area, and we managed to fall back asleep (although not after I walked full force into our closed sliding glass balcony door. I had forgotten that I closed it while I was outside in an attempt to not disturb Ken).

So, we didn’t capture sunrise because it was still quite cloudy. But I was totally okay with that. What we got to capture instead were incredibly moody shots of Monument Valley, which I assume are a rarer shot that the ubiquitous sunrise shots!

Cloudy Sunrise in Monument Valley - View from TheView Hotel Room Cloudy Sunrise in Monument Valley - View from TheView Hotel Room Cloudy Sunrise in Monument Valley - View from TheView Hotel Room Cloudy Sunrise in Monument Valley - View from TheView Hotel Room Cloudy Sunrise in Monument Valley - View from TheView Hotel Room

By the time we showered and went to breakfast, the clouds had cleared and it was going to be a beautifully sunny day!

View from restaurant at Monument Valley The View Hotel Monument Valley

We had arranged for a Navajo tour guide that afternoon in Monument Valley. There are some parts of Monument Valley accessible by car without a Navajo guide, but the roads are really, really rough. We didn’t have a 4 wheel drive (just our little economy rental car), and we wanted the benefit of hearing more about the area from a local guide.

Our guide picked us up at the hotel in a Jeep, and we started our tour. First, our guide pointed out the “right mitten.” (Because it looks like a mitten!)

Right Mitten - Monument Valley

And then right and left mitten together.

Left Mitten and Right Mitten - Monument Valley

And this formation was called the Three Sisters. If you look at it creatively, it looks like the profile three nuns standing.

Three Sisters - Monument Valley Monument Valley Driving Tour Monument Valley Driving Tour Monument Valley Driving Tour

Our guide pointed out this formation, called “Totem Pole”

Totem Pole- Monument Valley

Then our guide stopped at this formation which had a nearly perfect circle formed in the “ceiling.”

Circle roof formation in Monument Valley Wide angle shot of the circle formation

Our guide had us lean against the structure to get a better view. I snapped this picture of Ken and our guide.

Monument Valley formations

As we continued our tour, our guide pointed to some Hogans, or traditional Navajo dwellings,

Hogans - Traditional Navajo Dwellings - Monument Valley

The landscape of the area is just truly stunning. I’d definitely recommend a tour of the area to anybody!

Monument Valley Driving Tour Monument Valley Monument Valley

When our guide dropped us back at our hotel, we stopped by the “Trading Post” at the hotel, which is essentially just a gift shop. While there, I went to the restroom, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at this sign in the ladies’ room!

Funny signs - please do not bathe in sink

And that was it for our time in Monument Valley! We only spent one night there, and then we were on our way to Lake Powell!


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