Tuesday, November 23, 2010

John Ford’s Point

John Ford’s Point is the fourth point of interest on the Self Guiding Valley Drive Trail at Monument Valley Tribal Park in the Navajo Nation. Beside the view point, there is a short trail to walk and it is a center for viewing Navajo Arts and Crafts.

John Ford directed more than 140 films and won four Best Director Academy Awards and is regarded as one of the all time best directors. He pioneered location shooting and the long shots framing characters against rugged natural terrain such as here at Monument Valley.

Stagecoach in 1939 was the first in the series of seven Ford Westerns filmed on location in Monument Valley. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. Stagecoach was the film that elevated John Wayne to international stardom. The gift shop at the Visitor Center has several of these films for sale along with an assortment of John Wayne souvenirs.
Looking east, there is a head on view of Camel Butte, the fifth point of interest on the Valley Drive. Beyond is the Spearhead Mesa area that includes Artist’s Point, another major stop and view point.
Back to the west are the Three Sisters and Mitchell Mesa. The geology here is described as three main layers. The caprock Shinarump formation sits on the DeChelly or Cedar Mesa Sandstone that forms the sheer cliffs of the mesas and buttes. The stair steps below the buttes and spires are softer Organ Rock shales.

Part of the charm of John Ford’s Point is the array of Navajo vendors. The silver and turquoise jewelry draw a lot of attention. There is an opportunity to try the famous Navajo tacos featuring the fry bread shells as you gaze out toward Merrick Butte and the famous Mittens.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wildcat Trail at Monument Valley

The Wildcat Trail is a 3.2 mile lasso type loop in Monument Valley Tribal Park in the Navajo Nation along the Utah and Arizona border. It is the only hiking trail in Monument Valley that the public can travel without a guide. Most visitors at Monument Valley follow the self guiding Valley Drive or take a guided tour.

The trail head is near the visitor center, just past the right turn that descends to the Valley Drive. The trail makes a loop around the West Mitten, one of the most famous of the Monument Valley formations. There are also good views of the East Mitten.
Along the first segment are small signs identifying several of the desert plants. Besides the Broom Snakeweed, others mentioned include Russian Thistle, Rabbitbrush, Narrowleaf Yucca, Mormon Tea, Blackbrush, Cliff Rose, Threadleaf Groundsel, Prickly Pear Cactus, and there also scattered Utah Junipers. Along the north side of the trail is the massive Sentinel Mesa.

Around the north side of the loop are good views toward a group of formations that include the Big Indian, Castle Butte, King on his Throne, and Brigham’s Tomb.

Some of these same formations are among the ones in the famous view along Highway 163 approaching Monument Valley from the northeast.

Around the north side of the West Mitten I noticed a sliver of blue sky visible through the Mitten, a small arch forming. The opening is visible from both sides from the right angle, but is easier to see from the north side.
Around the east side of the loop, the trail passes directly between the East Mitten and the West Mitten.

 My hike took 1:45 hours on a 45 F degree mid November day. The park wasn’t very crowded and I saw 3 other hikers during my trip.