Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mystery Valley Trail in Monument Valley

The Mystery Valley Trail is part of Monument Valley Tribal Park along the Arizona and Utah border inside the Navajo Nation. Mystery is only available to visitors on a guided tour.
 The tour I took was from Goulding’s Trading Post. The route we followed was south from Goulding’s along a dirt road and then entering the park at the southwest corner and following rough sandy roads. From along here there were some distant views of the famous spires, buttes, and mesas over the desert environment.

In mid May the Prickly Pear Cactus was just starting to bloom among the Sage Brush and Mormon Tea. The guide seemed to be more aware than the visitors that a cactus flower foreground with the Monument Valley spires in the distance would be a good picture.

Along the Self Guiding Trail that attracts most visitors to Monument Valley there aren’t any Ancestral Pueblo Ruins sites. Despite the very dry environment here now, there are several small ruins sites in this part of the park. The first one that the tour visited was Square House Ruin, sitting up in a nicely formed bulb of an alcove.
After viewing the ruin from the canyon floor the guide took off up a steep sandstone slope, sticking to the surface like he was a desert big horn sheep. Most of us followed for the elevated view despite the somewhat exposed short trail. To the right of the ruin on the sandstone walls there is a small petroglyph panel showing four or five elongated mountain sheep.

Just around the corner at the same stop there is the Baby Feet Ruins site. There was some confusion among our small group of six when most of us returned to the tour vehicle and the guide was missing. A short search revealed him perched up in the Baby Feet Ruin. This appears to be a small storage site. The guide said that there are some small foot prints near the small structure. Only one of us made the climb up into the site.
There are three large arches along the Mystery Valley Trail. The first one visited was Honey Moon Arch. I thought this one somewhat resembles Broken Arch in Arches National Park.

Nearby Honey Moon Arch is Half Moon Arch. Under the left side there is a large granary storage ruin. There is a spot along the canyon wall that gives a good angle to see the granary.

The third arch on the Mystery Valley Trail is the Lone Pine Arch, named for a small Pinon Pine high on the cliff on the right. This looks like a pothole type of arch. The main sandstone layer forming all the scenery is the De Chelly layer, which may be the same as the Cedar Mesa Sandstone. The valley floor is the Cutler formation and the sandstone is capped with the Shinarump layer that sometimes has been mined for Uranium.
We stopped for lunch in a canyon that was the site of the Many Hands Ruin. This small floor level ruins site is very rich in pictographs, with dozens of mostly white hand prints covering the walls. I thought that this would be a very famous site if it was located in an area with easy public access.

Only a few people per day take the guided tour here so this rich site gets only a few visitors. Besides all the hands there are some large elongated square shouldered humanoid figures, also in white.

At the upper end of this same canyon there is another ruins site called the Many Houses Ruin. This site had several low structures spread along a long curving alcove. Most of our group skipped the short walk to this site, resting and waiting for the grilled hamburger lunch prepared by the guide.

There were picnic tables and a grill in position and a tasty lunch was prepared very quickly. A small box provided by Gouldings included chips, a cookie, and an orange. After lunch we continued on to the back roads of the popular Monument Valley part of the park.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your detailed notes have helped me label my photos. Thank you!