From Grand Junction, Colorado I traveled Interstate 70 west and a route south toward Moab, Utah. I have fun-filled memories of time spent hiking, mountain biking and camping in Moab with my partner many, many years ago. The town has exploded in size since our visit here. When we visited Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park and Dead Horse State Park years ago, we never needed on-line reservations ahead of our visit. Now, if you have plans to visit any of the parks, be sure to do your research and know if you need a reservation for a specific day’s timed-entry into a park.
Anyway, I grabbed sandwich-makings at a supermarket and continued on to Monument Valley, Utah where I was camping the next 2 nights. As I passed Bear’s Ears National Monument, I realized I should have added a couple of days to explore that area … next time!
I arrived at my Utah campground and saw a guided tour was leaving in 15 minutes. I hopped on it. There is a huge advantage to have a guide drive their vehicle over the dirt, washboard-like roads in the Monument Valley Tribal Park which is located in Arizona. An extra benefit I discover, the guide takes us into the back-country where other visitors can only drive on the basic scenic loop. Our Navajo guide was great in explaining things, driving through the sandy areas on the road, and stopping numerous places for us to take photographs. Seven customers, out of 12 of us, were from Europe. Our biggest challenge was the wind blowing sand all around. Thankfully I wore glasses and even put on a face mask so less was in my mouth and nose. Shout out to the “Clean Life, No Rinse Bathing Wipes” I used after the tour! Since it was windy and rainy at 8:30pm when I got back to camp, I used those wipes and could not believe the amount of sand in my ears!
The next day I drove about a 15 mile loop on a road a local person suggested when I asked for a place to explore. The majority of the distance was on a very sandy, washboard-like dirt road and my van rattled like crazy! I saw 4 other local people on the road and I eventually passed Olijado, Utah. In Navajo it means “moon over water”. Two different locals told me that meaning. Here are two photos:
I returned to Monument Valley Tribal Park … to check out the visitor center and then to participate in another tour. This was a sunset photography tour with a Navajo guide. My first hope was for a sunset worth photographing since the previous day was so windy, cloudy, gray and eventually rainy. Oh no … This evening began with a major downpour of rain and wind-blown sand! I thought what a disaster this was going to be! Two other people were on the tour with me and we remained hopeful.
Finally the storm passed! Thankfully it was a three hour tour and our guide knew where to drive for good photo opportunities and to not drive in clay areas where we would be stuck in it in our vehicle. (No cell service out here!) The other huge advantage was our vehicle had windows we could close. I felt so sorry for the people in the open-sided vehicles! No rain gear would keep them dry with this storm!
Our guide was very good. He spoke Navajo, so we could hear the language, and explained what he was saying. He had many interesting stories about his life and the Navajo tribe. It was nice to have a small group on the tour. Photos are below.
If you are interested in visiting Monument Valley Tribal Park, which is in Arizona, you can stay at the campground, cabins or The View Hotel, all on tribal land. I stayed at a Utah campground just outside the area and paid $8.00 per day as I visited the tribal park, plus the fee for any tour taken. I am looking forward to a return visit!