Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Monument Valley Self Guiding Trail

Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park located along the Arizona and Utah border and is famous for the massive sandstone formations that are icons of the west.

 The park draws quite a few tourists arriving by the bus load. From the Visitor Center there are good views of the best known of the formations, the East Mitten and the West Mitten. The large visitor center had a display on the Navajo Code Talkers. These were Navajos serving during the World War II who used their Navajo language over the radio, unintelligible to the Japanese. In recent years these men have really become local celebrities.

The most popular tour is the Self Guided Valley Drive. The road into the valley is dusty and rough, like the Navajo Reservation, but it is really like few other places, with the massive weather carved sandstone blocks. They remind you of how tiny we are. Many of the formations have names, the first along the route is Elephant Butte.
One stop where there is some walking is John Ford's Point. One of the features of Navajo parks is that there are vendors at every stopping point selling their artwork. They are somewhat overwhelming. The stands they sell from are usually slapdash and rickety but they do have a lot of turquoise and silver jewelry, pots, kachina dolls, and the fabulous Navajo rugs. There were a lot of foreign languages being spoken at the view points, and not all ones that I could recognize.

Another popular spot along the route is Artist's Point. There are often painters with canvas set up here to paint this scene. The orange-red sandstone formations are of the Cutler Formation from the Permian period of 160 million years ago. There are at least four arches in the park that are visited on one of the guided tours.

One of the last sites along the tour is the Thumb. This formation is similar to the balanced rock type formations that occur in Arches National Park further north.