Perhaps no more iconic scenic landscape exists in the American west than Monument Valley, Utah. It appears in auto commercials, travel advertisements, and most notably, the Forrest Gump movie. I think it is the most “American” of all American scenes.
Besides an iconic symbol of the American west, Monument Valley is the “sacred heart” of the Navajo Nation. Is it the pure beauty, the ruggedness, or the Navajo spirits that draw us here? Yet, it looks so familiar since we have seen it so many times on TV, and the internet.
And those who know say it looks the same, whether 300 or 3000 years ago. The sky might be a different shade of blue, since we are ruining the environment, but the canyons are as deep and the sandstone buttes as towering. The magic of wind and water has created a great work of art. The buttes reach over a thousand feet high. The Utah Arizona border is nearby, as are the famous Four Corners (where four states meet). We are in the heart of the Navajo Nation. The Navajo name for the valley is Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii, and covers nearly 92,000 acres.
Even the valley floor sits at 5000 to 6000 feet above sea level. The sand was deposited by the meandering rivers that carved this great valley about 50 million years ago. The bright red color comes from iron oxide, like many other famous places in the American southwest. The blue dray rocks get their color from manganese oxide.
The buttes consist of three layers: a lower layer of Organ Rock Shale, the middle is de Chelly sandstone, and the top is the Moenkopi Formation, topped with Shinarump Conglomerate. All I know is looking at the formations is as breathtaking as any sight I have ever seen in the world. Between 1945 and 1967, uranium (vanadium and copper) was mined here.
The park has their own seventeen mile drive, much different than our Seventeen Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula. The Monument Valley has been featured in Hollywood films since 1946, the year I was born. It was John Ford’s, My Darling Clementine. Wasn’t there a song, too?? What about Stagecoach in 1938?
The most notable features in the park: Three Sisters, Mitten Butte, North Window, Elephant Butte, Totem Pole, and Yei-bi-Chai. The Wildcat Trail is a short four mile hike for almost anyone. A guided jeep tour might be the best way to navigate the sandy, and rocky roads.
Many suggest getting there for either sunrise or sunset. While I may not be able to do that, just seeing the great Monument Valley is a treasure in itself. It might even become “the photo I did not take.” Ponder that for a moment!!!!
But I will make it over to Goulding’s Lodge, for a quick look, some food, maybe a Native American craft or fridge magnet, and a quick look around the museum. And if I look very carefully, I will find a Navajo medicine man.
Just over half of Native Americans living on American Indian reservations or other tribal lands with a computer have access to high-speed internet service, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The low rate of subscription to a high-speed internet service — 53 percent — in these often rugged, rural areas underscores the depth of the digital divide between Indian Country and the rest of the U.S. Between 2013 and 2017, 82 percent of households nationally with a computer reported having a subscription to a broadband internet service.
I am certain two full days plus here, sandwiched around some long bike rides are not enough. But certainly enough to feed my soul until the next time!
Arches National Park has over 2000 natural sandstone arches. The most famous is Delicate Arch, seen in countless photos and advertisements. The forces of nature for millions of years creates a unique and breathtaking scene. But no evidence of dwellings in Arches has ever been found. The first reliable date for Arches is June 9, 1844, by a Denis Julien, a French American trapper who had a habit of chiseling his name and date onto rocks in the Southwest. Before that, various Native American tribes inhabited the region, followed by the Spaniards.
Arches were formed by the combination of nature and time, with rock layers that reveal millions of years of erosion, deposition, and other geologic events. Arches is located in the high desert, with elevations that range from 4000 to 5600 feet. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter, very little rainfall, temperatures can fluctuate over 50 degrees in a day.
Much like most desert areas, the land appears harsh and unchanging. But the desert ecosystem is constantly evolving with weather, climate shifts, and geologic activity. Pollution has made an impact on natural resources, and introduced new species.
Sand Dune Arch
The arches are the park’s most outstanding natural feature. Of the over 2000 catalogued arches, they vary in size from a 3 foot (minimum to be considered an arch) opening to 306 feet for Landscape Arch.
Canyonlands National Park area has been visited for over 10,000 years. Many different people have moved in and out of the area, depending on the availability of natural resources. Canyonlands is one of the last undisturbed areas of the Colorado plateau. The area is high desert, similar to the weather and rainfall in Arches National Park.
Two unusual natural features are common here. Biological soil crust is a living groundcover that forms the foundation of high desert plant life. And ephemeral potholes are naturally occurring basins in sandstone that collect rain and sediment. The potholes foster the growth of organisms that can survive long periods of dehydration. It becomes the breeding ground for many high desert amphibians and insects.
Over time, Canyonlands was flooded by oceans, covered by rivers, and mudflats, and eventually covered with sand. Layer upon layer of sedimentary rock formed as buried materials became encased by the precipitates in ground water. Each layers reveals a different environment. Equally surprising is that each layer was flat when deposited.
Green River Overlook
Naturally, Moab itself offers plenty to do as well. It touts itself as the home of the greatest mountain biking on the planet. Jet boat rides are also available. Hiking, ATV riding and back packing are major activities in Moab. We intend to find out everything we can about this little town, located so close to these national treasures.
We are staying at the Red Cliffs Lodge after spending our first night in Salt Lake City. Red Cliffs sits on the banks of the Colorado River, and is surrounded by 2000 foot high red cliffs.
It should provide a good base for us to reach both Arches and Canyonlands, as well as have some time to rest and recharge.
We may do a combo tour with a jet boat and a 4×4, if I can talk Sheri into it. Or an hour flight over everything, leaving time for some hikes. The other option is to just drive around, stop whenever the mood or scenery strikes, and walk some of the trails. Both sound pretty good to me. It may even reach the 80s later today or tomorrow.
We arrived safely in SLC on Monday, checked in, and scoped out the Mormon Temple and Temple Square. It is a pretty impressive sight, no matter how many wives you have. Actually, a funnyline occurred several years ago, when golfer Johnny Miller, a Mormon, first became a TV golf announcer. One of the players he criticized, Paul Azinger, called him the “biggest moron I know”. When asked about his quote by the reporters, he said he was misquoted, that Johnny was “the biggest Mormon I know”.
We had a nice dinner last night at PF Chang’s in SLC. Jesse, the manager, told us to make sure to stop at Goblin Valley on the way to Moab. We plan to hit the road early today. We will keep you posted.
Tropical rain does not stop us from doing most leisure activities, other than cycling, and golf. Wait! I cycle and golf! So, what else can we do when it rains here?
The obvious choice is to swim, either in the ocean or the pool. But thunderstorms generally force people off of the beach. I have been caught in heavy rainstorms here in the past, both on the golf course, and in the pool. Generally, just waiting for about ten to twenty minutes until the storm passes, works just fine.
Shopping is a good alternative. It can get expensive here in Maui, but what the heck, we are on vacation! A little shopping excursion to Paia or Makawao is good rainy day therapy. And maybe grab a light lunch.
So is going to a spa. But I am really not a spa guy. My sis-in-law Laura would go in a heart beat.
And I am not really a museum guy, but I have never been to the Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum. The building has been there since 1902! Theater is a reasonable alternative, but I have seen all of the Polynesian themed theater I care to see in this lifetime.
The Kula Lavender Farm in Upcountry is also a good diversion. And Maui has a winery up there too! So is Surfing Goat Dairy.
Too bad I can’t find a two or four hour work assignment, or a volunteer gig. I could wait tables for the lunch hour? Or I can just go with it, and read, watch TV, or send emails.
Driving in a heavy rainstorm here can be treacherous. The Road to Hana contains many stories of drivers who overestimated their ability to drive in a tropical rainstorm. Likewise the road to the top of the Haleakala crater at 10,023 feet. Too many treacherous switchbacks, and too many tourists!
Forget the helicopter tour, as I would not do that in good weather. Too many crashes!
And despite being able to handle a sightseeing boat, or even the ride to Lanai, the ocean is not a good place to be in a storm. It is a little too unpredictable for me. So, whale watching will have to wait until the seas are calm. Do you remember, “It was an angry sea, my friends?” It was a famous line from Seinfeld, where George is able to save the life of a whale by pulling out a golf ball from its blow hole.
When in doubt, always remember Maui has lots of watering holes. Remember back in the days when Primo beer was a big deal? Now, this island, like elsewhere, is a microbrew paradise.
See you on the mainland!