After a long day on the motorcycle yesterday, today we had a long day in the truck (285 miles). We decided to use the truck rather than the Harley because we knew we’d be moving along a lot of loose gravel, “natural surface” roads today. We planned to go into Utah and visit both Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Valley of the Gods, which is maintained by the US Bureau of Land Management. On the way to Monument Valley, we stopped in Mexican Hat, Utah, and took an off road to see the formation after which the town was named. We stopped there again on the way home since the changing sunlight creates very different views of the sandstone formation. Our second stop was the Navajo park of Monument Valley. It was even more dramatic than we expected. Everyone our age probably remembers lots of old western TV shows and movies, and many were filmed right in the valley. As we drove toward the area, we saw scene after scene we’d seen in the movies in our youth. At one of their sales locations, the Navajos even had a sign labeled “Famous Scene” alongside the road! The Navajos offer guided tours through the valley, but Fred had done some good research on the Internet, and knew we could do a self guided tour along the 17 miles of gravel roads all through the park. He had printed a three page self tour guide we used, and it named and explained each of the eleven stops on the tour route, from the very familiar (from photos and old shows) West and East Mittens and Merrick Butte, to the Three Sisters and Totem Pole formations, to John Ford’s Point and Artist’s Point. We stopped and ate our picnic lunch about half way through our tour, and enjoyed watching the sun alter the views of the sandstone formations as the light changed.
Our next stop was Goosenecks State Park, named for the way the rocks have been there eroded by the river. After traversing another several miles of that very bumpy “natural surface,” we arrived at a very unusual sight – a 1500 foot deep canyon dug out by the meandering San Juan River. We stood and looked down at the layers of rock in the canyon and at the river, the longest “entrenched river meander” in North America. Here the river twists and turns, covering a distance of over six miles, but advancing less than two miles toward its mouth at Lake Powell. On the way out of the park, we had to drive slowly so we would not upset the longhorn cattle grazing on what little grass they could find on the open range. We both laughed at the hand painted “Cattle Xing” sign tacked on a pole in the desert, but it did its job warning tourists to slow down!
Next we tackled even more of those washboard, dusty, rocky, bumpy roads to go into the Valley of the Gods. This area looked a lot like a mini-Monument Valley, with more unusual sandstone formations with names like Battleship Butte, Woman in a Bathtub, and Seven Sailors. The loop through this park includes a section called the Moki Dugway, an 11% grade on gravel, built in the 1950s during the uranium boom to transport ore to a mill near Mexican Hat, and built along the hillside, literally dug out to provide a path for transport. We had been warned not to try to negotiate it without a four wheel drive vehicle, so we drove part way into the park, enjoyed the towering rock formations, and then retraced our route out to the main highway. As we left, I saw that the light had changed the way the mountains looked once again, and one right in front of me had a definite zigzag design. I wondered if the local Navajo women, who are such accomplished weavers, ever used the mountains as a inspiration for their blanket designs.
By now, we were ready to hit the highway and get back to the RV Park to cook supper, but we found out we weren’t quite done our adventures for the day. As we drove into the small town of Montezuma Creek, we were stopped by an EMT. There was a house fire in town, and the firefighters were using hoses hooked up to the fire hydrants on the other side of the highway from the fire, and since the hoses stretched across the highway, no one could pass by. This wouldn’t have been too bad in a city, but there was absolutely no way to get back to the RV Park without taking an hour long detour through the mountains and desert! As we slowly wound our way in a circuitous route back to the RV Park however, we did get to see some very rural areas no tourist ever would normally get to see! It was quite late when we finally reached the park and by then we were very hungry, and we didn’t want to take the time to cook. Based on an earlier recommendation from Bruce and Sara, we drove to “Lotsa Pasta, Thatsa Pizza” Restaurant and enjoyed a delicious salad and pizza supper.