2019 New Mexico Adventure – Monument Valley

From Colorado, I traveled to New Mexico. I flew from Denver to Albuquerque, picked up my rental car (a VW Passat), and drove 3 hours to Farmington, NM! I found that everything I wanted to do in New Mexico was at least 3-4 hours from each other, but that’s OK – it is why they offer unlimited miles on rental cars! LOL I stayed in Farmington for two nights while I visited Monument Valley and Four Corners Monument. Monument Valley was another three hours from Farmington, but that was the closest place I could find a hotel that didn’t cost an enormous amount of money! The drive from the airport to the hotel was really nice – all good highway, but pretty much nothing in between – lots of dirt, rock, and buttes with a few oil rigs, a couple tiny villages, several reservations, and several casinos…..all with a lot of nothing in between! LOL But, it was a beautiful, easy drive and my elevation increased from about 5300 ft to about 7500 ft. I settled into the hotel, got some dinner at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, and got some sleep. The tour I booked for Monument Valley was for 8:00 am and, like I said, I had about a three hour drive to get there! So, it was an early night to rest up for an early morning.

I got up super early and made the long drive to Monument Valley is part of a large Navajo territory that spreads across borders of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado – the bulk of the land is in Utah and Arizona. The actual Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a National Park that sits well within the Navajo Reservation and is protected by the Navajo people. They are very proud of their land and their heritage and are excited to share their cultures and history. Per the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park web site: “The delicate spires and gigantic buttes of this natural wonder at the Arizona-Utah border form the core of the Navajo Tribal Park, spanning an area of 91,696 acres (37,108 hectares) across the two states. The aptly named Monument Valley has been oft featured in popular films, most notably those of Director John Ford, its stoic forms forever immortalized as icons of the American West. The mammoth buttes, like sleeping giants, rise from the wind-swept landscape alongside towering spires of rock like the striated pinnacles of an ancient cathedral. As the sun makes its way across the sky each day, the landscape appears to shift while the clouds overhead chase their shadows across the richly-hued desert terrain. The overall effect is one of haunting beauty hewn of sandstone and shaped by the elements. Quite a drive from Flagstaff, but well worth the scenic trip, Monument Valley is deep within the Navajo Nation Reserve. Here, the Navajo continue to adhere to age-old traditions, living life in the image of their ancestors.”

These first few photos are from inside the Visitors Center at The View Hotel where I met up with the tour guide

The tour was put on by Monument Valley Safari Tours and was an awesome 3.5 hour tour in a 4×4 Jeep with a Navajo guide. There are parts of Monument Valley that are accessible by the public without a tour guide, but they still recommend you use a 4-wheel drive vehicle. These tours, though, take you further in to areas that are restricted unless accompanied by a Navajo guide because they want to ensure the formations and the land are not desecrated in any way. I am so glad I booked the tour because our guide made it amazing and the best views were definitely in the areas that the general public are restricted from. The formations are all natural and not interfered with by humans in any way – if they erode, they remain eroded – they believe that nature must be left to run its course. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Museum!

This was our tour jeep – I think there were 7 of us on this tour

Our guide – Comasheena – was awesome! She shared her love of the Navajo way of life and customs with us and went out of her way to ensure we got the best photos!

These are typical Navajo dwellings of the area called Hogans, currently not usually occupied, but some Navajo do still use them as their homes…..we stopped at one that I will show the interior of later!

Me in the “Mitten” pose in front of the buttes known as…..wait for it…..The Mittens!!!

I believe this one is known as The Three Sisters

There were a lot of wild horses, as well as family owned horses

This is known as John Ford’s Point – that horse is a fake one that people can have their photo taken on! LOL

This butte is known as The Elephant – see his body and his head is on the left side

This is known as The Shells

This is known as The Big Chief……this was NOT carved – it is a natural formation that the Navajo believe to be a tribute to the big chiefs!

More Navajo Hogan (dwelling) replicas

This Hogan is set up to showcase the heritage and crafts of the Navajo people and show a typical interior of these types of dwellings

It was after this point that we went into the areas that were restricted unless with a Navajo guide.

This cave was amazing…..see those tiny people at the base of it? Well, we went down there and it was like entering a cathedral!!! This is used by the Navajo as a place to perform spiritual music – the acoustics are incredible! There is a hole in the ceiling (you can see the sun shining through it onto the back wall) and our guide told us that at night, it is like looking up into heaven!

Again, this is a totally natural formation! God is amazing!!!

This shows the group that arrived before us — they are laying back against the slanted wall so they can look up through the hole in the ceiling while their guide played an authentic Navajo instrument and sang them a song. Our guide did the same thing for us, but this photo shows the whole picture – something I couldn’t get of us while we were in there!

Here we are lying against the slanted wall looking up at the inside of the cave……

It was so huge that it was difficult to get a good photo — but, as we were lying there looking up, the shape of the ceiling looks like an eagle – the opening is his eye and to the left is his beak and to the right is his neck!

On the stones to the left is the drum our guide used to sing her song — it was so beautiful and echoed majestically inside the cave — I wish I could share that with you, but I can’t!

Our guide took panoramic photos of us individually inside the cave with her drum — love this photo so much!!!

Another eyelet formation that looks like an animal

These and many other Petroglyphs are why there are areas that can only be seen with a Navajo guide – they don’t want to risk having anyone destroy them by touching them or defacing them — they are believed to have been created by ancestors centuries ago!

The streaks are known as Desert Varnish – created by sun and water resulting in magnesium oxide!

I think this one was called Big Hogan Arch

Photos and my explanations can’t possibly to the beauty of all in this area justice — simply breathtaking — I was in tears the majority of the tour!!!

Our guide showed us where to stand to see this tree create a slingshot to the heavens!

In the center of this cave is an ancient Anasazi dwelling ruin – the Anasazi people disappeared centuries ago – the Navajo are their descendants. The word Anasazi comes from the Navajo and loosely translates to mean “enemy ancestors”. They were believed to inhabit the Four Corners region about the time that Christ was born. They were well known for their cliff dwellings, like the ones in my post about Manitou Springs, CO, and like these. These are believed to have been inhabited by the Anasazi people when they lived.

This is a zoomed in close up……there were three dwellings, but one crumbled recently and they won’t intervene to restore it because it is believed that nature should be left to do as it must!

The formation close to the center is known as The Dancers — it is a place where the Navajo come at night to dance and hold rituals. The one on the left is known as the totem pole.

I think this might be called Sleeping Dragon — I’m not sure, though!

I left Monument Valley and headed to the Four Corners Monument about an hour away. Here is some of the amazing scenery I witnessed on my way.

San Juan River and bridge

Mexican Hat formation at…….wait for it……Mexican Hat, Utah near the San Juan River!!!

The scene where Forrest Gump stopped his run across the country and turned back was on this road……no idea if this was the spot, but it was here, somewhere, and sure looks like the spot!!! LOL

So, I got to Four Corners Monument…….it is the only spot in the entire USA where four states border each other – New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona! For such a famous and significant spot, it sure was a let down to see! LOL It is out in the middle of nowhere – just this cement area with the four states noted, a couple vendor booths with Navajo crafts for sale, a restroom facility with no running water, and absolutely NOTHING else as far as the eye can see!!! But – it was still cool to say I was there and I put one foot in NM and one in CO to mark being in the last two states I had to visit to say I’ve been to all 50!!! 🙂

and, here I am doing just that!!!

And, so I headed back to the hotel in Farmington……another 4 hour drive! When I got back, I grabbed some dinner and settled in for the night!

This is where my plans changed! My original plan was to leave Farmington and drive about 5 hours south to Roswell, NM and spend a couple days there checking out the alien stuff and spend some time in Carlsbad to see the bats fly out of the caverns and some other things in that area and then head back to Albuquerque for the rest of my trip, being there in time for the International Hot Air Balloon Festival . BUT…..I saw on the news that they were having severe storms, torrential rains, and flash flooding!!! hhhmmm……everything I planned to do was outside stuff! So, I gave it some thought – given the weather in the Roswell / Carlsbad area and the fact that I was really starting to feel like I wanted to get back home, decided to cut my trip short. I called and canceled my reservation in Roswell, changed my reservation in Albuquerque, and changed my return flights. I went straight to Albuquerque from Farmington and spent the three days there that I had planned – just earlier than planned – and left before the balloon festival! I was OK with that! So, my next post will focus on the rest of my time in New Mexico!

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