Monument Valley, Utah

7/13/2019 to 7/16/2019

Cowboys, Indians, and Forrest Gump

Saturday 7/13/2019     We left this morning around 10:30 because we didn’t have much of a drive, only 123 miles. We arrived at Goulding’s Campground before 1 pm – set up the trailer, and then went for a walk around the campground. We checked out the office/gift shop, laundry and peeked through the windows at the indoor pool which was closed for maintenance. Then we found a sandy trail that leaves from the campground and takes you to some beautiful views of the stone monuments. We didn’t hike too far as it was 98 degrees. We want to return in the morning or evening when it’s cooler and hike further. This campground is in an extremely beautiful location. It’s nestled in a canyon between red rocks with gorgeous views of the stone monuments in the background and we’re looking forward to seeing more of the surrounding scenery.

A little distance away is the Goulding’s Lodge and we went for a drive to see what that was like. They have a small display outside of a stagecoach, a small theater where they show a few short informational movies and in the evening were showing an old John Wayne film. John Wayne shot a few movies in this area and became a much-loved visitor. They built a little cabin with John Wayne memorabilia in it. We also visited the gift shop and restaurant and took some photos of their beautiful views. The Goulding family which consisted of Harry and Leone (his nickname for his wife was Mike) contributed a lot to the Monument Valley during the years they resided there from the early 1920s until 1962 when they gifted the property to a college in Illinois. They also became very friendly with the Navajo people and helped them with health issues (Mike was a nurse) and became trading partners. Their previous land now houses many Goulding buildings – a grocery store, a gas station, the lodge and the campground we’re staying in.

Sunday 7/14/2019     Road trip! But before we left the campground/lodge area we stopped at their tiny post office and mailed a birthday card to our favorite daughter, Wendy. We also stopped at the Navajo Welcome Center, which was not a wealth of information, it was actually a nice building but did not have much inside it. Then we began our 200-mile round trip trek to the destination of Navajo Nation’s Four Corners Monument. There is plenty of gorgeous scenery along the way and we also made a stop for a photoshoot along the famous road where they filmed the Forrest Gump movie scene where he announced that he was tired and finally ended his long run. There were many visitors stopped on the roadside and re-enacting the movie scene. You just had to be careful and wait out the oncoming traffic so you could stand in the center of the road to snap your photos.

Forrest Gump movie scene

My attempt to re-create

We continued on our way and arrived at Four Corners which cost $5.00 per person to enter. I didn’t know what to expect and was a little surprised at the crowd of people who drove out to the middle of nowhere to take pictures of the spot where four states meet – Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. It’s on Navajo land and they’ve built a very nice, cemented floor with state names and small marble monuments on the sides representing the four states. It’s surrounded by the state flags and their Navajo flag. And of course, it’s also surrounded by a chain of connected flea market type stands where the Navajo are selling their arts, crafts, jewelry, etc. We had to wait in a fairly long line in order to take photos. It only took us about twenty minutes for our turn. We took photos for the man who was in line in front of us and he returned the favor and took ours. After we had our photo accomplished, we walked around the craft stands for a short time until I was ready to get in line again and have my photo taken while I was sitting down on the Four Corners spot. The line was slightly longer now - but I have my photo.

We started the long drive back to the campground, just taking a few more pictures along the way and settled in for the evening.

Monday 7/15/2019     This morning’s plan was a tour of the Monument Valley in an open-air pick-up truck. We were supposed to meet before 9 am at the sun-baked mud-covered home the Navajo called a Hogan which was inside Navajo Nation land near the visitor’s center. It costs $10.00 per person to enter their land but you can use the pass for two days. We arrived early to walk around and stroll the grounds, see the visitor’s center/gift shop and take some photos. We went about twenty minutes early to the covered picnic table outside of the Hogan where we were to meet our guide. A foursome from Switzerland came and waited for the guide also. We thought we were to take the same tour but their Navajo guide came and said the foursome was going on a different section of the valley tour and our guide hadn’t arrived yet. Before he left, he called his office and told them we were waiting and asked us to call again in a few minutes. We waited a couple of minutes and called and got their answering machine. They returned the call ten minutes later and said our guide had an emergency and they were going to send someone else and he’d be there in twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, a man did arrive but he was the owner of the company coming to apologize for the wait and said our guide would be there shortly. Finally our guide, Larry arrived and we began our tour about 45 minutes late. The tour follows a long, sandy, dusty road downhill for a short while and then flattens out for the majority of the trip.

Our first stop was at two rock formations called The Mittens. There is an East and a West Mittens. We were only able to fit the West Mittens in our photo as they are fairly far apart. At every major stop, the Navajo have set up their craft booths hoping to sell their weaving goods or jewelry. We just drove by formations called the Three Sisters and you should be able to tell which photo is of them. The second stop was at John Ford’s Point, named after the Hollywood director who made John Wayne famous. Some of the director’s movies were: The Searchers, Cheyenne Autumn, and Stage Coach. I walked way out onto the point and can barely be seen in the photo. You can pay a person $5.00 and he’ll walk out to the point on his horse so you can re-create the famous John Ford’s Point picture. The horse was there, but the man wasn’t, so sorry no photo. Some other famous movies shot scenes in the Monument Valley such as Easy Rider, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Back to the Future Part III, Forest Gump and our personal favorite, National Lampoon’s Vacation. A more recent movie filmed here was Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger.

Next stop was a Hogan where a Navajo woman was demonstrating her weaving skills and also selling her wares. Her family lives right outside the Hogan in a small home. Next stop was called the Sun’s Eye and after that was Ear of the Wind. At the Ear of the Wind stop, Larry sang us a Native American song while we laid on our backs looking through the Ear. Larry’s song must have led a horseback tour to our spot. We continued on our journey, past a formation named the Totem Pole and took more photos of all the scenic views. Larry stopped for a while and gave us a nice history lesson and told us some stories of his ancestors and his life. He is a tour guide during the busy season but then heads to Michigan to work in the construction industry offseason. He said unemployment on the reservation is 70%, so much of their people have to seek work in the outside world. We began driving once again and came to the end of our tour. Altogether it lasted over three hours.

Here's a very nice YouTube video showing all of Monument Valley

After our tour, we took the short drive back to Goulding’s Campground, made dinner and relaxed for a bit. Around 6 pm we decided to take the hike that starts right behind campground again but go further and take a different fork in the road. The views so close to our campsite are truly amazing. It’s just a short amount of walking until you come to the arch. The skies were so blue and we were able to take some great photos. It was only a 45-minute walk and to paraphrase Dorothy - “We didn’t have to go any further than our own back yard.”

Tuesday 7/16/2019    Yippee-ki-yay! We took a pretty unique (at least for us) adventure today. We drove back to the Navajo Tribal Park in Monument Valley and took a two-hour horse ride. We entered at the same ticket booth we did yesterday but didn’t have to pay as we used our two-day pass. We parked and began walking to the tour guide’s ticket booth when a man shouted out to us “would you like a horseback trail ride?” We said sure, paid our small fortune and got back in the truck and drove a short distance to the stable. The Navajo stable men saddled up the horses for our group. We were paired with a family of four from Holland. After everyone mounted, our tour guide, Devon, introduced us to our horses and we introduced ourselves to each other. I was riding Magic and Rose’s horse was named Navy.

Devon was riding without a saddle, just a blanket on a recently trained wild horse named Tank. Tank was an extremely spirited horse but thankfully ours were very well trained and mild-mannered. We started on the trail taking photos from our horses and occasionally stopping for a rest and to take some more pictures. We actually saw the same monuments we viewed on our truck ride yesterday but this was more up close and personal. We stopped and dismounted about a half-hour from the end of the ride and the horses took a shade break under a very rare tree. We returned to the stables and said goodbye to our great horses and Devon. It really was an enjoyable experience, the horses were so well-trained and no one had any trouble on the two-hour trek. This was one of our favorite tours yet.

After our horseback riding adventure, we drove back to the trailer, showered off all the trail dust, and did a load of laundry. Around 6 pm we drove to the small theater at the lodge and watched a short informational movie, it was only 20 minutes long. There was a second movie but for some reason, they space them an hour apart so we drove back to the campground to waste 40 minutes and then returned to the theater for another 25-minute movie about the history of the Goulding’s.

Wednesday 7/17/2019     Monument Valley has been a great stop and we kept busy the whole time we were here but it's time to move on. Today we packed up and headed further north to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.

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