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Published: April 19th 2015
Roadtrip SW USA...Monument Valley in the Snow...Am I in Heaven?
A raven hovers in front of me...as if to say "snap me if you can"...then flies in a sweeping arc over the valley below...and returns...over and over.
But do you think I could capture it in my lens?
Maybe it's position was different each time...me zooming in too close...or my hands aching with cold.
It flies off again...taunting me.
"How about with the mittens and buttes of Monument Valley as a backdrop?" it squarks.
The snow flowing from red rock cliffs and slopes...flowing like Christmas frosting on the most glorious spread in front of me.
We are in Monument Valley and I'm in Heaven.
The polar vortex has dumped fresh powder snow right here...thick and lustrous...pristine and clear.
And to top it all off...we are here!
I reckon it's time to go out in a Blaze of Glory.
I used to watch real Westerns as a kid. You know...black & white.
Real gunfights with real cowboys and real Indians.
My hero was Chief Joseph. Had a soft spot for Geronimo and Sitting
Bull as well.
Didn't really like the cowboys unless they were unshaven, had well worn hats, caused fights in saloons, cheated at cards and were generally mean buggers...as long as they killed each other...not Indians.
Or if they had decent names...like Chuck Connors.
I also had a six-gun...and a Sheriff's badge...in case a bit of authority with the neighbourhood kids was required.
They were the good old days.
You could hold up a milk bar with a cap gun...and not get into too much trouble!
Yep. They were the good old days.
But back to the present...driving down the highway in our Dodge Durrango...my Annie Oakley look-a-like by my side...in our leathers...hats...stirrups and boots.
I think we're ready.
Heading into the country where those Westerns were filmed...Monument Valley.
These days part of the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Stopped at the Navajo Indian Monument down a turn off the highway.
The wind nipping at us as we walk down the track...snow and ice clinging to papery flowers and bushes...the odd stunted tree...following the edge of a deep gorge.
Then we saw it...and the walk thus
13th Century Zuni Pueblo cave dwellings in an overhang across the gorge down there.
Reminded us of the funeral cave dwellings in the Bandiagara escarpment in Dogon country at Teli in Mali, West Africa.
But unlike in Mali you can't sleep on mud rooves with fires flickering and donkeys braying out here...there's just us.
Was approaching 4pm and we have to get going. Wouldn't want to be caught out here overnight.
Onto Route 160 to Kayenta, Arizona...then LHT to Route 163 to Monument Valley.
Immediately there were rocky outcrops climbing out of the snow clad desert.
Over a rise...and wow!
A dog sitting by the side of the road,,,totem pole buttes...a red escarpment with some white Patagonian shaped volcano hills...large moon hanging in the blue sky...gotta stop for a photo.
And when you stop in the middle of nowhere...sometimes passing vehicles wonder what you're gawking at.
And that's how we got the worst advice on our roadtrip thus far. Next time don't stop lady!
We told her we were heading to stay at the Navajo Hotel in Monument Valley...hoped they had some vacancies...think the view be quite
"Oh I've just come from there. The rooms are very basic. I wouldn't stay there."
So we turned around a went back to Kayenta.
Stopped at the hotel at the edge of town with rocky outcrops behind.
"We want a room with the best view you have got. Got any free with views?"
"Yes. We'll get you the room with the best view we have."
There were great displays of Navajo handcrafts so we got to looking.
Found some turquoise and silver Navajo rings that blew us away...best we'd seen in the south-west so far.
So being a generous guy...and Denise had been driving well that day...I bought her the ring of her choice...and a stunning matching pendant on a funky woven leather cord...stunning!
And scored a decent discount as it was low season!
So we headed to our room pretty pleased with ourselves.
Denise crashed onto the bed...and I had a look...and headed back to reception.
"I thought we were getting a room with a view...there are no windows to look out the back."
"You have the room with the best
"There are large paintings of scenery...but no view."
"None of the rooms have windows out the back...that's your view!"
I had to smile. Room with a view!!!
When we travel we seek guidance from locals...and over breakfast we hit pay dirt.
There was a guy upgrading the electricals for the hotel with his two sons helping. So as is our way we got to talking.
He told us the quick way after Monument Valley to get to Goblin State Park.
Fortunate to have met him as he lives up that way and following our map that's the way we would have taken.
They had driven that way to get here.
"There's a zig-zag steep section before the Gulch that rises rapidly for 1,000 feet on dirt. The rest of the road is tarmac."
"Why is that section dirt?"
"It's probably too steep. A guy with a grader clears it twice a week. We drove down it getting here. It's a very hairy road. There's a cliff drop one side...but it should be OK. There's no better view in the country. If you
can get up the dirt section you should be OK...as long as it's not snowing."
The boys nodding excitedly in agreement...telling their own stories of past travels down that road.
The turn off the highway was at the Trading Post...the 25 Mile sign...to the right several miles to the Navajo Visitors Centre.
The snow was deep powder...no hint of melting...air brisk, still and cold...the sky vivid clear and blue.
The monuments were spires, buttes, mittens, rocks of every shape...mainly red...dressed with snow.
Paid the entrance fee then headed into the carpark...and to the View Hotel.
Ripped off we must say.
The woman who told us last night it was very basic needs her rocks shaken. The views from the hotel rooms are out of this world. Shaking our heads...ripped off big time!
Better enjoy it while we are here.
I stand in the deep snow with a view to die for...massive red rock edifices right here...a black raven hovering like a kite no more than 3 metres from me...then flying back into the valley surfing the up-draughts...then back again.
Denise heading inside...for so long
I had to go and find her.
The views were unbelievable.
The black and white westerns have nothing on this...even the ones in colour not a scratch on the scenes before us.
So we hop onto our trusty steed...the Dodge Durrango...head down into the valley...the road brilliant white...bit icy but secure...and headed into cowboy and Indian heaven.
And instead of a six gun I had my new Sony NEX6...a smokin' gun with my 18-200 mm lens...Denise with my old NEX5 with the new 16-50 mm lens...and her personal derringer...her iphone!
We were armed...and we were dangerous...and it was just us in that etherial wonderland.
When I die and where I then go...I just hope it's as good as this place.
The Navajo call it "Tse biyintzis gaii" (the space between the rocks)...otherwise known 'round here as Monument Valley.
But to us it was the ultimate spiritual destination.
It was simply Heaven.
Relax & Enjoy,
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