In a galaxy far, far away… Southwestern Road Trip Day 5

We spent the night at the Hampton Inn in Kayenta, Arizona, a very small town that boasted 3 hotels and as many restaurants. Seriously – we thought Sitiawan was small when we were growing up? Kayenta takes the cake. What we in Malaysia used to call a “cowboy town”. The reason that they even had 3 hotels in town was because of their proximity to Monument Valley Tribal Park. Which was our first destination of Day 5!

So after the complimentary breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and headed off north towards Monument Valley.

[[image:us200.jpg:22 miles from Kayenta to Monument Valley:center:0]]

As we drove north to the border (Monument Valley itself is in both Utah and Arizona), we saw interesting rock formations:

[[image:us197.jpg:Rock formations:center:0]]

[[image:us196.jpg:Red rock formations:center:0]]

If you are sitting there thinking “Monument Valley…what’s the big deal?” here’s the big deal. Aside from being a gorgeous geological wonder, Monument Valley has been featured in countless movies, and is a favorite of cowboy/western genre of movies. John Ford filmed many movies here and our image of the “wild wild west” probably includes these awesome monoliths at Monument Valley. He even has an area that’s named after him (Ford’s Point) since he loved the area so much and did a lot to popularize it among the filmmakers in Hollywood. Images of Monument Valley are embedded in our psyche, due to these influential movies.

It’s no wonder that this whole place is a sacred place for the Navajo. We entered Monument Valley Tribal Park and made the Visitor Center our first stop. We stood outside the Visitor Center, just gazing around, unwilling even to blink, drinking in the gorgeous view. Red earth as far as the eye could see and huge rock “monuments”, also vividly red.

[[image:us199.jpg:View from the Visitor Center:center:0]]

[[image:us198.jpg:Mak with Monument Valley in the background:center:0]]

[[image:us203.jpg:Abah and me:center:0]]

[[image:us205.jpg:Abah and Mak:center:0]]

[[image:us206.jpg:Cowboy Vin studying the self-driving tour of Monument Valley:center:0]]

[[image:us201.jpg:On the other side of the Visitor Center:center:0]]

[[image:us204.jpg:Abah by one of the buttes, called the Mitten:center:0]]

Here’s the Visitor Center itself:

[[image:us207.jpg:Me at the Visitor Center:center:0]]

And this is the spectacular view from inside the Visitor Center

[[image:us208.jpg:Monument Valley through the Visitor Center windows:center:0]]

So we wandered around, looking through the Navajo Code Talker exhibit at the lower level of the Visitor Center. It was really amazing, what the Navajo did in World War II, specifically in the Pacific Theater (against the Japanese and therefore something that affects us Malaysians who were invaded by the Japanese during World War II). The Navajo were recruited especially to use their native language as code to pass back information back and forth, coordinating many battles including the battle for Iwo Jima. The Lower Level had a history of the Navajo Code Talker regiments, their achievements and so forth. Very cool stuff. I might have to rent Windtalkers now that I’ve learned so much about the heroic Navajo.

We also learned about Monument Valley, the traditional Navajo way of life and other things about the geological wonder that was Monument Valley. Some key definitions:

Mesa = Table land (Huge rock monoliths, usually with flatland at the top)

Butte = A smaller remnant of a mesa

Spire = Thin tall structures that were originally part of a mesa

The upper level of the Visitor Center had a restaurant, a gift shop (that featured a large John Wayne exhibit – John Wayne=Cowboy movies=filmed in Monument Valley) and a spectacular view out of a wall of large paned windows. We picked up a few souvenirs and Vin picked up the self-drive tour of Monument Valley, and we set off.

[[image:us202.jpg:The Mitten buttes:center:0]]

In the picture above, you can see the small dirt road snaking around. That was the road we were going to take on our self-drive tour – 17 miles of bumpy, dusty, rocky, hilly, red dirt road. Can’t even imagine if it rained here what kind of crazy deep mud there would be, but luckily this is a desert so it really doesn’t get very much rain. The following are some of the pictures that we took on our 17 mile drive (mouse over the picture for captions):

[[image:us209.jpg:The Three Sisters:center:0]]

[[image:us210.jpg:Rain God Mesa:center:0]]

[[image:us211.jpg:The Hub (the nipple-like thing in the distance):center:0]]

[[image:us212.jpg:The Three Sisters from afar:center:0]]

[[image:us213.jpg:Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei:center:0]]

[[image:us217.jpg:Mak and Abah with Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei in the background:center:0]]

[[image:us214.jpg:Camel Butte at a funny angle:center:0]]

[[image:us215.jpg:Talk to the Hand:center:0]]

[[image:us216.jpg:Vin at Artist’s Point:center:0]]


[[image:us222.jpg:Mak at Artist’s Point:center:0]]

[[image:us223.jpg:Artist’s Point:center:0]]

[[image:us224.jpg:Walking to the Thumb and North Window:center:0]]

[[image:us225.jpg:Abah by the Thumb:center:0]]

[[image:us230.jpg:Camel Butte:center:0]]

We saw goats far away at one of the mesas:

[[image:us218.jpg:Wild goats:center:0]]

Some more of the amazing buttes that make up Monument Valley:

[[image:us220.jpg:View at Artist’s Point:center:0]]

[[image:us221.jpg:Rock Strata:center:0]]

[[image:us226.jpg:More of the view at Artist’s Point:center:0]]

[[image:us227.jpg:Red layers of rock:center:0]]

[[image:us228.jpg:Rock and Butte in the distance:center:0]]

[[image:us229.jpg:Merrick Butte (I think):center:0]]

I did my best to remember the real names of these buttes in the captions of the photographs above. We spent the better part of the morning here – the 17-mile drive was very bumpy but well worth it for the amazing view. Everywhere in the park, we kept seeing small rocks piled one on top of another, like small stacks.

[[image:us240.jpg:Stack of rocks:center:0]]

I don’t know what they meant, but I’m sure this must be something the Navajo did (some Navajo people still live in Monument Valley – it’s a sacred place – we were not allowed to take pictures of their homes and we respected that).

After a lovely morning (for me, this was one of the highlights of the entire trip – I LOVED Monument Valley!), we headed back south to our second stop of the day, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de-shay, from a native american word “tsegi” meaning “rock canyon”). It’s southeast of Kayenta at a town called Chinle, and after a short visit at Canyon de Chelly (more ancestral puebloan ruins), we would head to Flagstaff and spend the next 3 nights there.

[[image:us241.jpg:Route from Monument Valley to Chinle then Flagstaff:center:0]]

The drive to Chinle was beautiful – we saw red rocks to our right and a big dark mesa (called the Black Mesa) to our left.

[[image:us231.jpg:Road leading away from Monument Valley:center:0]]

We ate a very late lunch at Chinle, and then went to Canyon de Chelly. There are 2 “rim drives” where you can drive yourself around Canyon de Chelly and stop at various stopping points to view ancestral puebloan ruins and amazing vistas. We didn’t want to stay at Chinle too long since we had a bit of a drive to our next hotel at Flagstaff, so we decided to go on the South Rim and only make 1 stop (note to self: must come back and devote more time to Canyon de Chelly).

We stopped at the White House ruins:

[[image:us232.jpg:White House ruins signboard:center:0]]

[[image:us234.jpg:The White House itself waaaaay in the distance:center:0]]

[[image:us233.jpg:The canyon where the White House was located (right):center:0]]

[[image:us235.jpg:The White House canyon (left):center:0]]

We could have hiked all the way down to the White House but it was at least a half day’s hike and we had to have much more water before we could (or should) attempt it, so we stood there, looked from afar and enjoyed the view.

[[image:us236.jpg:Abah and Vin at Canyon de Chelly:center:0]]

[[image:us237.jpg:Vin and me at Canyon de Chelly:center:0]]

After the White House ruins, we turned around and went on our way to Flagstaff.

[[image:us238.jpg:Rolling hills:center:0]]

It was a good thing, too. Turns out, we were farther from Flagstaff than we thought. It was pitch dark by the time we got there, and we were all exhausted from our active day of sightseeing. I did take a few sunset pictures.

[[image:us239.jpg:Sunset on the I-40 towards Flagstaff:center:0]]

We were driving due west, right into the sun, so it was kind of a good thing that we got a late start – the sun was almost down by the time we turned west. If we had been on that road earlier, it would have made for an uncomfortably bright drive. Anyway, we checked into the Embassy Suites at Flagstaff, and made it our headquarters for 3 nights.

Here’s some more of my photostitching attempts:

[[image:usph29.jpg:View from the Visitor Center:center:0]]

[[image:usph27.jpg:Mittens and Merrick buttes:center:0]]

[[image:usph21.jpg:The Three Sisters:center:0]]

[[image:usph22.jpg:View from Artist’s Point:center:0]]

[[image:usph23.jpg:Another view from Artist’s Point:center:0]]

[[image:usph24.jpg:View from Ford’s Point:center:0]]

[[image:usph25.jpg:Another view from Ford’s Point:center:0]]

[[image:usph26.jpg:More of Ford’s Point:center:0]]

[[image:usph28.jpg:Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei:center:0]]

[[image:usph30.jpg:Canyon de Chelly:center:0]]

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