The Searchers

By: muttler



An early morning this morning, as we got up on sunrise to join our one and only organised tour of the trip. We thought it best to take a Navajo organised tour of Monument Valley today for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it would get us into some of the out back areas that you need a guide for. Secondly, in the current era, only 5 cars per hour were being let on to the main drive of Monument Valley. So a tour it was!



I was up before sunrise, and was thankful for our “valley view” room. Not bad seeing the sun come up over some of the landscape.

At 7:45 am we met up with our guide and the rest of the group, piled into our jeep and headed off. We did a quick stop to check out a Navajo Hogan, a traditional hut made of juniper tree logs and mud. We were told that some of the Navajo people of the area still live in them, although many now take advantage of modern facilities.

From there it was into Monument Valley proper. I was worried this would be “more of the same” having been to so many parks and seen so much countryside over the past 2 weeks, but it had a different feel again. Now THIS was the landscape of those 40s-60s westerns that we all know. Indeed, there are tributes to John Wayne and John Ford all over the place. As such, there was a weird familiarity with the place.








The tour was predominantly spent in the jeep, on the dusty trails, being pointed out to all the different “monuments”. Unlike the other parks, Monument Valley is mostly barren red landscape, with towering rocks coming out. Each have their own “personality” of sorts as well as quirky names. So we wound our way on the trail, stopping periodically to get more info and for scenic photos.

At times we were able to get off the main track into private Navajo land, a big reason for the tour. On those tracks we got to see a number of pectroglyphs, that unlike others we had seen in our travels, we were able to get right up to, given the private land we were on. We also saw several arches, one of which we were pointed out looked just like an eagle (see if you can work it out from the pictures below… hint, look for a blue eye and the curve of the beak).








The tour went for 3.5 hours and took its time through. It was stunning landscape, and I could see why many people make the trip, especially evoking Hollywood of the past.

This meant we were done by lunchtime. Unlike the other parks, hiking is not really a thing here, so we decided to drive on a few of the public roads to get some better views of the monuments from different angles.






We also came across the spot where Forrest Gump famously ended his cross country running. We roughly knew where the spot was, but it was easy to find… just look for all the people standing in the middle of the road!




The rest of the day was spent relaxing with the gorgeous vistas. The hotel also shows a John Wayne film each night, with tonight being Stagecoach, so I decided to settle in for the night with the seminal 19030’s western (sadly The Searchers was the night before). Tomorrow it is heading back west for the Grand Canyon!


From Mesas to Monuments

By: muttler



Today was another predominantly travel day, from Moab to Monument Valley. Total travel time was around 4.5 hours, but we had two stops planned.

First destination was to Mesa Verde National Park. This was in many respects the main park that Kate wanted to visit. But we also knew this would be the most compromised by our timing. While all the other parks didn’t have too much off limits being winter (in fact it had been SO MUCH better, with the small crowds), Mesa Verde we knew would have many parts closed for the Winter. This sadly included the guided tours into the Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings that the park is most famous for. But we knew this, which is why we elected to visit on a travel day, as we had seen that about 3-4 hours would be enough to explore what we could.



Yet another different vibe in this park. First of all, it was in the mountains and covered in snow! Thankfully the gorgeous weather of the last couple of weeks translated to clear roads so we had no troubles heading up the mountain. Secondly, this park is less of a hiking park, and more explore the ancient sites. The ost spectacular of these are the numerous cliff dwellings that can be seen incredibly perched within the cliff faces themselves.







They date from more than 700 years ago and it is mind boggling to think how on earth they were lived in. Apparently there were hand and foot holes within the cliff face to get up and down. I’m brave, but not sure that brave!

We did the scenic drive to the different sites, taking our time to explore what we could. 4 hours disappeared in the blink of an eye, and so we headed down the mountain and off to our next stop.



Next stop was a minor diversion, but a fun one. Who could resist visiting the point at which four different states meet! With just 10 minutes to spare before it was closed, we arrived at the Four States monument. Here, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. So technically we have now visited New Mexico too 😛








It made for some cute, kitschy, photos, and thankfully 10 minutes was all we needed.

With the sun going down we were back into Arizona (and then Utah) and those familiar red rocks reappeared. This time a bit different though as it was more the classic “cowboy” landscape of those 50’s films. We arrived into Monument Valley itself, staying at Gouldings Lodge, previously used to house all the movie stars who would make their way out here to shoot their films.




Two nights here would mean a full day of exploring tomorrow!